FLEA Ensemble Makes Wolfsonian Collection into Speakers for Rainforest IV

​Imagine walking into a museum and, of all things, a gas mask starts playing music at you. A little creepy? Yes. Totally smart? Yes! 

There will be a speaker gas mask and other mundane objects transmitting sounds at the Wolfsonian Museum on Miami Beach when Florida International University's Laptop & Electronic Arts Ensemble (FLEA) performs David Tudor's 1973 Rainforest IV during the Subtropics Festival. This musical piece creates an electroacoustic environment, using sculptures or everyday objects as speakers, and the students are inspired by the museum's artifacts. 

First performed last semester, it was such a hit that the Wolfsonian asked FLEA to return. The nine students who are performing are graduate and advanced music technology and composition students. According to Dr. Paula Matthusen, assistant professor of Music and director of Music Technology, "It is very experimental and investigative. (People should) come with a spirit of exploration and curiosity." 


Fourteen objects will be used, including tea kettles and fire extinguishers. Contact microphones pick up vibrations through instruments, they "pick up resonant qualities of the instruments and infuse the sound through the space," says Matthusen. 

Visitors can wander through this unconventional performance environment and examine the makeshift speakers. This inventive approach to technology doesn't damage the museum's artifacts, rather students found analogs of the objects at thrift stores and on ebay. Matthusen said, "In one case a student was able to find an actual match, which was pretty exciting."

The performance will coincide with the 21st Subtropics Festival, celebrating it's 21st year of providing music and sound art to South Florida in 2011.

Rainforest IV will take place tonight from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Wolfsonian Museum (1001 Washington Ave, Miami Beach). Contact 305.535.2649 or [email protected] The event is free.

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Liz Tracy has written for publications such as the New York Times, the Atlantic, Refinery29, W, Glamour, and, of course, Miami New Times. She was New Times Broward-Palm Beach's music editor for three years. Now she plays one mean monster with her 2-year-old son and obsessively watches British mysteries.
Contact: Liz Tracy