MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – MARCH 2009: Throughout the month of March, the Gertrude Silverstone Muss Gallery at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach was home to a unique art exhibition aptly titled “SOUND.” The exhibition celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Subtropics Festival, an annual showcase of sound art sponsored by the local collective interdisciplinary Sound Art Workshop (iSAW). SOUND was curated by iSAW’s artistic director, Gustavo Matamoros, in association with composer David Dunn. The selected works explored the full range of sound art, including sculptural works, installations, performances, and interactive art. Matamoros relied on the flat frequency response and stunning fidelity of twelve Klein + Hummel P 110 high-end reference monitors to realize all of those pieces that required external loudspeakers.
“Museum spaces are seldom acoustically blessed,” admitted Matamoros, who is a creator of mixed pieces, recorded sound portraits, sound installations, text, video, and radio-phonic works. He has been the director of iSAW since 1989. He continued, “The gallery we were given in Bass has a seven-second reverb time! The usual way people tackle this is to alter the architecture to create isolated rooms. We wanted to curate a show where we didn’t have to do that; one where the pieces could live next to each other without conflict. It’s kind of like when you go to the park and hear children playing and birds singing and dogs barking.”
The gallery is one hundred feet long by thirty feet wide, which didn’t suggest obvious speaker placement. After some deliberation, Matamoros and his collaborators decided to run four of the Klein + Hummel loudspeakers down each long wall (eight total), with the final four speakers dedicated to one piece at the end of the room. A computer provided automated choreography of the show and fed a twelve-channel B&K amplifier. Often, only one piece ran at a given moment, but the pieces also ran as duos, trios, and quartets. Depending on the nature of the piece, each wall of speakers might act as a single “left-right” channel; different groups of speakers might act as different zones; or each speaker might play a unique signal in full multi-channel mode.
“We really needed speakers that were as flat and true as possible,” said Matamoros. “Before we settled on the Klein + Hummels, we tried other, admittedly less expensive speakers. It didn’t work nearly as well. There’s something about the honesty of the signal as it comes out of the speaker that helps things mix more pleasantly in the room.” Although Klein + Hummel makes an active version of the P 110 (the O 110), Matamoros deliberately selected the passive version. It proved easier to simply run speaker cable without having to worry about locating power outlets for each speaker.
Of the twenty-two pieces selected, twelve relied on the Klein + Hummel P 110s. “Music for Pure Waves, Bass Drums and Acoustic Pendulums” by sound art pioneer Alvin Lucier had four of the speakers dedicated to it. Each sat behind a bass drum tipped slightly so that the drumhead was perpendicular to the floor [see photo]. Ping-pong balls suspended with monofilament on each drum bounced to create rhythm when the drum was excited by a slow low-frequency (30 to 100Hz) sweep provided by the speakers.
Artist Russell Frehling created a piece just for SOUND that was tuned to the specific resonant frequencies of the Gertrude Silverstone Muss Gallery. Appropriately named “Bass Soundfield,” the piece constructed sonically-miniature waveforms well above 5000Hz. “The piece played on acoustics of the space and became one with it,” said Matamoros. “They were very tiny sounds reproduced faithfully by the P 110s. The gallery was transformed into a very magical place with those beautiful little sounds.”
By all accounts, SOUND was a huge success. It is the most comprehensive exhibition of sound art ever displayed in Miami, and iSAW is currently in the process of relocating to a venue that will easily accommodate on-going exhibitions of sound art. Of course, they will continue to rely on their Klein + Hummel loudspeakers to realize their art form.
ABOUT KLEIN + HUMMEL Klein + Hummel is a Sennheiser Group company. For over 60 years, Klein + Hummel is revered in the professional audio industry for its advances in sound reinforcement combined with unparalleled quality and innovative solutions. Klein + Hummel products are distributed exclusively in the United States, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean by Sennheiser Electronic Corporation, located in Old Lyme, Connecticut.
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PHOTO CAPTIONS IMAGE 1: The pristine flat sound of twelve Klein + Hummel P 110 loudspeakers accentuate the unique art exhibition “SOUND” celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Subtropics Festival in Miami sponsored by interdisciplinary Sound Art Workshop (iSAW) under the direction of Gustavo Matamoros. IMAGE 2: A Klein + Hummel P 100 speaker placed behind each of four bass drums provided a low-frequency (30 to 100Hz) sweep to rhythmically bounce the suspended ping-pong balls for Alvin Lucier’s “Music for Pure Waves, Bass Drums and Acoustic Pendulums” at the “SOUND” exhibition, held at the Gertrude Silverstone Muss Gallery in Miami Beach, sponsored by interdisciplinary Sound Art Workshop (iSAW).