CANAL (Miami Beach)

I kept a sort of journal during the CANAL event performed by Frozen Music as it developed over the night of November 7th (as part of Miami Beach’s Sleepless Night), from 6pm-7am. Frozen Music’s members are Gustavo Matamoros, David Dunn, and René Barge. This was the group’s first performance, and it was very exciting to be there to hear it. (Their second and third events, titled Autonomous Sounds are tonight and tomorrow night, as part of Miami Beach’s Art Basel.) I’ll include their description of the event:

Canal is an exploration of an outdoor environment in Miami Beach using specialized audio devices capable of hearing the hidden sounds that occur underwater, inside the ground and surrounding plant life, and above or below the normal human hearing range. In addition to the sounds of everyday life, these sounds are amplified, mixed, and processed before being combined with a diverse array of other synthetically produced audio signals. The result is a constantly changing auditory fabric—heard through a state-of-the-art, multi-channel sound system—surrounding a section of the Dade Canal. The audience is free to wander within and around this sonic cloud or to come and go over several hours of continuous performance.

A brief excerpt has been posted online. I’ll include that now so that you can have some sense of the sound world I am referring to.

It’s a completely different experience depending on where I place myself in relation to the speakers. I found myself interested in a spot out of the direct range of all of the speakers. I feel like I am having the most complete experience of the sound production there, though it is more diffuse. But then I hear something specific going on and I move back to it. One of the first sounds to draw me in is a metallic, reverberant sound, like a glow, or a gritty majesty. I followed a fish that was swimming along very very slowly near the surface of the water. I swear he was saying, what the hell is going on? At some point a receipt floats by, reminding me that not everything in the canal is natural in the first place. For me, that adds to the relationship between the sounds.

I come back about an hour later and it’s like a different piece. It’s as if the canal has gotten more pliable, and the water has opened up to the sound. And I was surprised to see, at the point when everything seemed loudest and most active, that none of the trio was playing at all. What I am hearing are interacting processes. I’d been trying to pick out what was what. David Dunn mentioned how interesting it is that you so often can’t tell. And that suggested a new way for me to listen. The sounds are not separate elements, but a complex relationship, an interaction. Listening in that way, I find that it’s coming alive. I don’t know what or how, but there is percussion, impact, and outcome. But the outcome just keeps going, propelled by the water. It’s growing and interacting. Processes are set in motion and continuing. It no longer seems to matter which are real and which are more synthetic. It just matters that they are all there.

I try lying down, and lose the effect of the sound almost completely. I continue sitting for a time until a worm crawls onto my arm. I get a little freaked out by that, but I guess it’s his territory more than mine. Time to move on. The best way to take in the sounds, I realize, is by walking up and down, moving with them. I can grab at more of the dynamism of what is going on, and there is no illusion of fixity. I try lying down, and lost the effect of the sound almost completely. I find a wonderful spot on a stone bench. Sounds are radiating and reflecting off the water. At the further end of the bridge, the sounds are distilled and ambient. I hear them as delicate strands, some thicker, some thinner. Some swoop down, and others stay on a constant pitch. Others skip around. They are periodic, like gentle waves, but they sound nothing like waves. I return to the performance area and find much more sound and detail. It has clearly been there all along. This music is like a scene that can only be photographed at certain angles, but never experienced in its entirety. My spot on the further bridge is a wide angle shot. On the way to it, or slightly on the side, mostly sound is completely lost. Once I center myself, the sound is a little less clear than before, but I like it that I have to strain to hear it.

I return to the performance area, and the substance of the sound is growing. I hear an intense whistling, which may well be the wind, which is incredibly strong tonight. The sounds are building and reverberating, and forming a kind of counterpoint between sounds and textures. As the sun is rising, the overall sound is gentle and peaceful. Light, sustained tones are most prominent. I am hearing harmonic relationships between parts. There is a cadence on repeated notes. Is it already over?

I was pleased to see so many casual passers-by engaging with the sound and responding to it. They did not seem to know what they were entering, but it drew them in and fascinated them–and me.

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