Bats and Insects

Bats and Insects, animated rendering by Freddy Jouwayed. @ 2014 Subtropics Editions.


Bats and Insects (2014) | world premiere
A 16-point source exciter-panel activated sound installation
Commissioned by Rod Fauls, Director of the Schmidt Centre Gallery

Opened as part of the exhibition
Common Ground: Artists In The Everglades
Schmidt Centre Gallery
Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida

The exhibition aims to provide an overview of the dynamic works that have been produced by a variety of artists from this distinctive residency. Miami-based sound artist Gustavo Matamoros presents “Bats & Insects,” a sound-scape in the Schmidt Center Public Space in collaboration with Freddy Jouwayed, a Miami-based artist who designed the installation layout. The hidden acoustical signature of the architectural space articulates the work and provides passersby with the sounds of the natural world within the context of a man-made space.

This 180ft-long 16-point source sound installation used custom-built exciter-driven black tile speakers that hung from above suspended on aircraft cable. It operated 24-7, gently activating the entire length of the Performing Arts Building’s entrance hallway with the delicate sounds of insects flying away from bats, changing locations from one end to the other of the public access space, welcoming visitors into the building, guiding them to the gallery entrance and accompanying students transiting to their classrooms for the school year

About Making The Recordings

Unless we know where and when to find them, bats are very hard to record in nature. their erratic flight patterns make them hardly recognizable in the dark and their navigation noises are too high in pitch for us to hear. if they are around, we don’t often notice.

They emit high pitch calls while in flight for navigation and hunting prey. the echo of these short sweeps comes back pregnant with information about what surrounds them so they need not use their eyes. they don’t interpret the world visually like we do.

To hear those recorded calls a recordist like myself has to transpose them several octaves down in the frequency spectrum into a comfortable human hearing range. the nature of these calls is such that even at their new frequencies they still behave like acoustical exciters.

This installation is in part an artifact to helps us hear bats, while making it impossible to see them.

In contrast to the acoustical probing qualities of bat calls, the sawtooth wave sound produced by mosquito wings in flight is meant to distract us with illusionist tricks (now-you-hear-it-now-you-don’t) caused by similar erratic flight patterns. they want to call attention to themselves with sound, if for an instant, and then move swiftly to a target area while we look elsewhere.

Recording mosquitos is even harder. They are everywhere and easy to see and hear, but among the rich Everglades soundscape, their sound is very difficult to isolate in field recordings.

The bats and mosquito sounds were recorded during a month-long AIRIE residency in the Everglades National Park. The piece is dedicated to scientist Skip Snow how educated me about the different species of bats in the park and when and where they could be found.

It is a very unusual thing to try to record sounds that can’t be heard. The soundscape recording that captures the bats calls was made at Long Pine Key on September 12, 2013 between the hours of 6 and 9 p.m.

About The Sounds and Their Motion

Three kinds of sounds are heard in the context of this sound installation: the sound of bats, the sound of mosquitos, and the hidden acoustical signature of the architectural space where the work resides.

The sound bats make—their echolocation calls—occur naturally at frequencies beyond our hearing range. This means that in nature we may see them fly but may not hear their cries. This installation broadcasts these bat calls at frequencies we are able to hear, a few octaves below the original. In Bats and Insects we may now hear their call but may not see them fly about.

Mosquito sounds are only heard when they approach the microphone or when they near our ears. They know we have ears on the sides of our head and that our tendency is to turn because we need to see them. That’s when the sound disappears. While we look away they move swiftly elsewhere so they can feast. These are two different ways of using sound to negotiate a life.

A third category of sounds heard in this piece are the often hidden sounds of the architecture itself, a family of artificially composed tones designed to excite the otherwise inaudible acoustical qualities of the installation space. These resonant frequencies define the acoustical signature of the site.

It is worth noting that the sound in the room is produced by exciters that turn the suspended square tiles into vibrating surfaces or speakers.

16 of these speakers acting as discrete point sources make it possible to create the illusion of these creatures flying up and down the entire length of the installation space.

Special thanks to my dear friend and colleague Freddy Jouwayed for his design and installation advise and invaluable help in concretizing the physical layout of the installation. Thanks also to Claudio Rodriguez for his help with the electronics, to Rod Faulds for the gracious invitation and to his staff, Sybille, Craig and all the others for their enthusiastic support.

Signal Flow Chart