Subtropics Vol. 1: Breath

For thirteen years [ at press time ], the Subtropics Festival has been the premiere showcase for sound art and experimental music in Miami. The first in a series of live recordings from the festival’s digital archives, this collection was curated by Gustavo Matamoros to highlight sounds generated by breath. It features performances by Robert Dick, Earle Browne, John Gibson, Needle & Sony_Mao, Thomas Buckner and Alvin Lucier, Gustavo Matamoros and Robert Gregory, and John Cage. The album was intended as a fundraiser for Subtropics Organization ( SFCA ) a nonprofit organization as a release on Elegua Records.

Editing and Mastering: Gustavo Matamoros
Graphics and Packaging: David Font
Produced by Subtropics Organization and released on Elegua Records

Various Artists: Subtropics Vol. 1: Breath
more information on the tracks and artists featured:

Robert Dick: Molecular Motion
Robert Dick has appeared twice as a guest artist of the Subtropics Festival. The first time was in 1990 for Subtropics 2. For his second visit in 1996, Robert had planned to perform a program of his own pieces for solo flute at the Women’s Club in Miami Beach. After a conversation about the Festival’s intent to offer guests an unusual opportunity to experiment and take a chance, Robert surprised us with an entirely improvised new program. The piece Molecular Motion included on the Breath CD is one of the pieces in that program. The recording was made by Steven Malagodi of WLRN radio.
—Gustavo Matamoros

Earle Brown: December 1952
Earle Brown visited Miami in 1998 to conduct the New World Symphony in a Subtropics 10 performance of ‘Sign Sounds’, one of his “open form” compositions in which the sound-content is written and controlled in “proportional notation”. The Festival also organized the performance of ‘December 1952’ included on the ‘Breath’ cd as part of the annual Subtropics Marathon concert. Earle Brown conducted members of the Festival’s ensemble and guest artists from Tampa’s BONK Festival -namely, bassist Luis Gomez-Imbert, keyboardist Drew Krause, flutist Lisa LaCross, David Rogers on accordion and Margaret Lancaster on flute. The ensemble was augmented by students from Florida International University’s New Music Ensemble. The 1998 Marathon took place at Gallery Douyon in Coral Gables.
—Gustavo Matamoros

Earle Brown writes:
” ‘December 1952’ was written for one or more instruments and/or sound-producing media. The following note appears on a notebook page dated Oct. & Nov. ’52, but they are the basis of the composition ‘December 1952’ as well as being particularly relevant to ‘Four Systems’: “…to have elements exist in space…space as an infinitude of directions from an infinitude of points in space…to work (compositionally and in performance) to right, left, back, forward, up, down, and all points between…the score [being] a picture of this space at one instant, which must always be considered as unreal and/or transitory…a performer must set this all in motion (time), which is to say, realize that it is in motion and step into it…either sit and let it move or move through it at all speeds…[coefficient of] intensity and duration [is] space forward and back.”

Earle Brown has been a major force in contemporary music since the early 1950s. His work at that time with new notations, scoring methods, and performance attitudes led to his development of graphic, improvisational, and “open form” scores such as ‘December 1952’ (from his collection Folio), ‘Twenty-five Pages’ (1953) for one to twenty-five pianos, as well as the later orchestral scores ‘Available Forms I and II’ (1961 and 1962). He has been composer-in-residence at the California Institute of the Arts, the University of California at Berkeley, the Peabody Conservatory of Music, Rotterdam Kunstichting, the Basel Conservatory of Music, Yale University, Indiana University, Bloomington, and at the American Academy in Rome (1988). He has received numerous awards such as a Guggenheim Fellowship, an American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letter Award, the Brandeis Creative Arts Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and commissions from Darmstadt, Paris, Zagreb, London, Rome, Saarbruicken and Venice among others.

Jon Gibson: Stalling Into Elation

Jon Gibson visited Miami in 2000 to give a concert of his music at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden as part of Subtropics 12. The concert took place outdoors, in a dimly torch-lit area of the garden behind the greenhouse. It was an intimate concert, and people sat on chairs and blankets over the grass. The ambient sounds of the garden and those coming from the city blended nicely with the compositions performed that evening. Gibson’s program included ‘Stalling Into Elation’, which is included on the ‘Breath’ cd. The recording was taken directly off the sound board. —Gustavo Matamoros

‘Stalling Into Elation’
The music for ‘Stalling Into Elation’ (1998) was composed for a dance project of the same name by choreographer Nina Winthrop for her company. The music consists of a collection of natural and manufactured sounds that are combined and overlaid in a variety of ways that create pre-recorded ambient “soundscape” environments in which the dance and other visual activity takes place. The recorded environments are then supplemented with live sound making activity, with soprano saxophone. The music for the live performance is built around composed thematic materials that are performed in a semi-improvised manner. This music can of course also be heard without any visual stimulus whatsoever.

Jon Gibson (b. Los Angeles, 1940) is a composer, woodwind instrumentalist and visual artist who has been active in new music since the 1960s. He has taken part in numerous landmark musical events, performing in the early works of Steve Reich (1963-’72), Terry Riley (1964-’66), and Philip Glass (1968-present), as well as performing with many other composers, including La Monte Young, Frederick Rzewski, Christian Wolff, Alvin Curran, Arthur Russell, Petr Kotik, Peter Zummo and Annea Lockwood, to a name a few.

His own music consists of a large body of solo and ensemble instrumental and vocal works that have been performed by himself and others throughout the world. His individual approach to composing and performing results in part from the influences of various western and non-western musics, jazz and improvisation styles, sounds from nature, and his long and important association with Minimalism and the post-modern aesthetic.

Gibson’s composition ‘Rainforest/Brazil’ appears on the Thomas Buckner cd on Lovely Music entitled ‘Full Spectrum Voice’, and his composition ‘Equal Distribution #1’ appears on the Petr Kotik cd on EarRational Records entitled ‘Virtuosity with Purpose’. Two earlier albums of his music, ‘Visitations and Two Solo Pieces’ appear on Chatham Square Records, As a performer, Gibson appears on recordings by Glass, Reich, Rzewski, Russell, Garrett List and Robert Ashley, among others.

Other activities include commissions to compose music for the dance companies of Merce Cunningham ‘Fractions’, Lucinda Childs ‘Relative Calm’, an evening-length work with decor by Robert Wilson, Margaret Jenkins ‘Equal Time’, Elaine Summers ‘Solitary Geometry’, an evening-length work featuring dancers Min Tanaka and Suzushi Hanayagi, Simone Forte ‘To Be Continued’, as well as work with dancers Nancy Topf and Elisabetta Vittoni. He recently completed a video animation entitled ‘Interval’, which combines audiovisual ideas of his into a single work and a collaboration with theater director JoAnne Akalaitis on a music/theater work centered around Charles Darwin entitled ‘Voyage Of The Beagle’.

Needle and Sony_Mao: Samantha Fox Interview (algedonic loop)

Needle discography:

Beta Bodega Coalition: Psychological Operations in Guerilla Warfare
Rice & Beans [RB001] USA

“Starfish Pool Meets Various Artists” (EP)
Lymph Ltd. [Lymph 002] Belgium

“Starfish Pool Meets Various Artists” (EP)
Lymph Ltd. [Lymph 004] Belgium

Beta Bodega [BB 6.5] USA

Needle & Io/”The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”
Elegua Records [ele001] USA

Needle, Jeswa & Otto Von Schirach/”Nosferatu”
Elegua Records [ele002] USA

Various Artists/”Subtropics Vol.1: Breath”
Elegua Records [ele005] USA

Gustavo Matamoros and Robert Gregory: Crypsis

Robert Gregory and I collaborated on several pieces during a period of about 5 years while he lived in Miami. The most noted of those collaborations was Portrait: Bob Gregory—also known as Bebop In The Forest of Lonely Rhythm because that was the name of the poem he wrote in order to perform the piece. Bebop can be found in the 5th issue of The Aerial: A Journal In Sound. The work takes very minute speech sounds from Robert’s highly unusual voice tone as they appear in a recorded interview. I think for Bebop it was just the word “and”. That word was dissected by setting into motion a sampling scheme that would scan and play back every sound contained in that word over the duration of the 10-minute piece. Robert simply read the text from Bebop over the resulting sound sequence. Crypsis—the track included in this Breath CD—was a stab at the same idea and it was performed as part of the Subtropics 6 Marathon in 1994. In listening to the recording, I think it was built around the words “so anyway so.”

I have since lost track of Bob. All I know is he is somewhere in Kentucky. I also know he is a writer that deserves recognition for he is someone with a unique understanding of sound’s potential to contain and deliver imagery. His poems are not unlike video-collages of sounds strung together like optic mirages, carrying within them a parallel world of flashing scenes and seemingly unrelated imagery. When I hear him recite, it is like a multimedia event happening inside my head. PS. Bob, if you happen upon this note, please drop me another. —Gustavo Matamoros

Robert Gregory
Robert Gregory is the author of two books of poems, INTERFERENCES (San Francisco: Poltroon Press, 1987) and BOY PICKED UP BY THE WIND (Emporia, KS: Bluestem, 1992). Poems recent or forthcoming in TERRA INCOGNITA, HANGING LOOSE, MANY MOUNTAINS MOVING, POETRY MOTEL, and WILLOW SPRINGS. Has also published essays and short fiction.

Alvin Lucier and Thomas Buckner: Music for Baritone and Slow Sweep Pure Wave Oscillators

In 1993, Subtropics programmed a mini-retrospective of the work of Alvin Lucier. He spent about ten days with us, wrote a piece for the Festival’s ensemble titled ‘Serenade for Oboe and Strings’ (his first piece exploring beating patterns without the use of slow sweeping pure tones) and created an installation called ‘Music for Piano and Half Closed Lid’ which was on display during the Festival at the former Center for the Fine Arts (now known as Miami Art Museum). It was not until 1996, however, that we had a chance to hear Music for Baritone and Slow Sweep Pure Wave Oscillators. That time it was baritone Thomas Bucker who came to Miami as a guest artist for a concert at Subtropics 8. We thought that the live recording of this piece had enough beating in it that Alvin would let us release it. But in retrospect, and compared with the recording by Tom Hamilton included in Breath, we agree our microphone was not located in a good place…or something. Thanks to Alvin Lucier, Thomas Buckner and Tom Hamilton for offering this recording and letting us use an excerpt for inclusion on our CD. —Gustavo Matamoros

John Cage: Empty Words IV [ Excerpt ]
John Cage agreed to come to Miami in April of 1991 for what he called “a short visit” of three and a half days. I said I was curating a concert of his music to fit a group made up of five great musician friends: pianist Anthony de Mare, bassist Robert Black, oboist Joseph Celli, percussionist Jan Williams, and Miami based flutist Lisa LaCross. At the suggestion of Robert Black, the concert included the first performance of ‘cComposed Improvisation’ in its duet form for snare drum and Steinberger bass guitar – a version of which was later released on O.O. Discs.

Here is a quote of a loose transcript from a Fishtank Radio interview I conducted with John while he was sipping on a cup of tea. […] indicates noises and pauses of different lengths:

“Shall I just talk? …Well…this has been a very…pleasant time to come here to Miami…The concert last night was extraordinary…The musicians were all so fine and…I didn’t know the flutist before…lives here…The…duet of the improvisation…with the…snare drum and the…and the Steinberger guitar was just…just great…Both of those musicians (Robert Black and Jan Williams)…they’re so…attentive to their instruments and to the…their possibilities…It was marvelous to hear a snare drum…played…in such a…free ranging…way…I forget how I make something until I study it…but…it seems to me it was a division of time…and then…statements about how many sounds and…the notion of a…of a…a special sound present in each one of the improvisations…for the…snare drum it was the…rim shot…putting a stick on the edge of the drum and…striking, not the drum but the stick…I think it may have been something to do with…in the guitar…something that was characteristic of the Steinberger guitar…shifting the pitches…perhaps…I think that…it’s interesting that…so many musicians enjoy…improvisation…but they…improvisation gives so much freedom…that…they…like to have…some restrictions…within which they can…improvise…For a great deal…of my life I…I had a chip on my shoulder…about improvisation but…I’ve taken it off in the last decade or so (laugh)…”

John was so pleased by the performances and the program that he proposed it to the Library of Congress for a concert in his honor to take place later that year.

A Brazilian chef was hired to prepare a macrobiotic dinner that included John’s recipe for Pesto sauce and made so much food, we managed to feed him the four days. When I picked him up at the airport he was carrying only a briefcase. In it there was a tooth brush, a bag with herbal tea, a dried hops pillow and the hand written scores to ‘Empty Words’, ‘One 3’ and ‘One 7’.

The track on the ‘Breath’ cd comes from John Cage’s performance of ‘Empty Words IV’, which took place April 5 1991 at the Wolfson Auditorium of Miami-Dade Community College. Over 300 people attended the performance. After only ten of the 90 minute performance, a reporter from the business paper stepped out of the hall and waited to take photos and interview those who were leaving the concert early. While consistent with his previous reviews of John’s music, the local critic was getting ready to trash his performance with phrases like “he must be pulling our leg.” Perhaps this is why John suggested I should do as he did and cultivate a bad memory (advice which I took seriously and have benefited from ever since.) – Gustavo Matamoros