Subtropics, A Gym for the Ears

Gustavo Matamoros at Vizcaya

This is the first in a series of articles profiling the seven finalists for the New Times MasterMind Awards, which will be presented to four artists during Artopia at the Freedom Tower February 11.

So you got the perfect abs, rippling muscles and legs that can run the

Miami Marathon a coupla times. But what kind of shape are your ears in?

Gustavo Matamoros -- who heads Subtropics: Experimental Music + Sound Art in Miami -- thinks it's time to give them a good workout.

"We're trained to listen for things not to things. If you

just listen, there turns out to be so much stuff," Matamoros says."The

outcome of it is sharper listening skills. It's like going to the gym

for the ears."

For the past two decades, Subtropics has used sound installations to

help clear some of the visual clutter and sharpen our hearing.


Sleepless nights last year, Matamoros and his cohorts set up

transducers and speakers along a nearly 700-foot stretch on the banks

of the canal by the Miami Beach Convention Center. For 13 hours, they

generated electronic sounds emitted by the environment heard by as many

as 60,000 people who strolled along the soundscape.

"What people

call experimental music relates to the experience of sound. It's a

process of relating with sound. For the listener, the experience is a


Matamoros' ensemble also explores the way spaces

help shape sounds. "We work with architecture to bring out the sonic

signatures of the space," he says.

So what instrument

does Matamoros himself like to play. "The saw," he says. The Venezuelan

native can saw away on as many as three cutting tools at a time,

bending them to create sounds emitted when he strikes or bows the


To listen in visit www.subtropics.org

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