Small Sounds
On a Table Top

This piece uses hypersonic technology to create the auditory illusion of small invisible objects moving across a naked table top

Small Sounds — poster Image: Gustavo Matamoros. © Subtropics Editions.

About Small Sounds

I call small sounds those produced by the manipulation of small objects amplified in such a way that the sounds we hear them make, we hear from the object’s perspective.  This means we capture the vibration directly from the object and not through air. A quality common to these sounds is the lack of acoustical resonance in the sound print. Example:

sample source material for Small Sounds On a Table Top (2009) ©2009, Gustavo Matamoros. Subtropics Editions

I’ve been creating and performing with small sounds since the late 1989 when Russell Frehling gave me an old phonograph cartridge handed down to him by David Tudor.  It was in 1990 when Russell, myself and David Weisbrott performed Cartridge Music by John Cage as part of Subtropics 2.  I’ve later added transducers other than the cartridge to my small sounds toolbox. Also in the toolbox you may find battery powered amplifiers cables and a large assortment of small objects.

Many of the first pieces i created with small sounds were part of the Music On A Budget series which I first performed for the first time as a collection in Tallahassee in 1993, on a program with Jill Burton and the New World Music Ensemble (directed by Phillip Gelb) dedicate to Sun Ra.

In 1994, i actually named a piece Small Sounds for myself and percussionist Jan Williams to record and then premiere at Hallwalls (Buffalo) and at the Music Gallery (Toronto).  I also used small sounds to improvise solo and with other musicians like Ushio Torokai.

In 1996, i decided to turn two of the Music On A Budget pieces with small sounds into videos to include in another piece in the New York performance of In A Fishtank.  One is Variations On A Shoestring, and the other, Sound Consumption.

In 2001, i created a performance called Small Sounds for Sale for the opening of Globe>Miami<Island, an Art Basel exhibition curated by Robert Chambers at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach.  In intervals of about 15 minutes, i performed, overdubbed, mixed and mastered a small sounds piece made from scratch that those who watched perform could purchase and take home right then and there.  I performed this piece several times over the next couple of years in Miami Beach and in Los Angeles.

In 2008, i created a multichannel installation called Small Sounds in the Workplace for the Art@Work series organized by Arturo Mosquera in his dental clinic.  This time, the small sounds were scattered all around the clinic and was heard by the patients as they were being treated.

The most recent of the small sound pieces is Small Sounds on a Tabletop (described above) which was created in celebration of Subtropics 20 and exhibited as part of the exhibition SOUND at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach.  Here’s a short video documenting the piece as exhibited:

Small Sounds On A Table Top, video from the premiere exhibition of the work, SOUND, The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach. © 2009, Gustavo Matamoros. Subtropics Editions