Memory Study
for Surrounded
Space (2017)

© 2017, Gustavo Matamoros –

“my memory of what happened is not what happened.” — John Cage

our minds are creatively dynamic and, over time, what actually happens isn’t quiet as we remember it. in school, one way i was taught to memorize something was by turning it into song

for this memory lab experiment i proposed exploring these two ideas of unreliability of memory and of song as a tool for remembering by segmenting speeches, news media broadcasts, interviews and incidental sounds contained in the archives of the partnering institutions, and by stringing them together like in a pearl necklace to create what i call a Sound Melody. the segments that make up a sound melody are selected, not on the verbal content of the words spoken, but based on their inherent and potential musicality

my hypothesis is that, not having a chance to make full sense of the language, the listener will focus on recognizing the sound of a voice, or of the environment surrounding a recording, or the quality of old broadcast microphones, or the blast of a space rocket, etc

by deemphasizing language our minds move away from meaning and begin to listen to other memorable elements of sound that reveal themselves in the cadence, the timbral and the environmental domains. these are the memory objects i was interested in exploring with this piece

as with most of my work, Memory Study for Surrounded Space is in general, an experiment, and in particular an exploration of auditory memory

commissioned by History Miami and Wolfson Archives for the exhibition MemoryLab, this piece investigates the unreliability of memory and the mnemonic properties of song by introducing the notion of the sound melody:  a sequence of audible events strung together like a necklace. these melodies — of which the above audio sample is an example — evolve in time as nonsensical successions of speech fragments and incidental sounds that in this case are quoted from historical news clips and other archival documentary materials found in the archives of the Wolfson Media Center, when searching for two words: “space” and “surround”

the physical structure of the installation incorporates special transducers that turn each tile into a discrete audio source. in this context the sound melody travels in space through every corner of the architecture over a background of underwater shrimp, Everglades water streams, and helicopter cabin sounds. it all results in 15-point surround experience for the listener

special thanks to Freddy Jouwayed for the architectural layout and to Claudio Rodriguez for designing and building to my specifications special audio hardware for this project

Thursday Mar 9, 2017 – Sunday Apr 16, 2017
Opening reception March 9, 2017


The artists in MemoryLab have been invited to delve into and activate the holdings of HistoryMiami Museum and the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archives as a starting point, or a point of intervention, in the creation of new work. Using research and investigative methods, the MemoryLab projects were developed as ideas that look simultaneously backwards, forwards, and inwards at individual and collective memory

The exhibition features a multigenerational group of artists who all have ties to Miami and currently reside in Miami, New York, California, and Seattle. The work of Elia Khalaf, John William Bailly, and Julie Khan incorporates informational input from the public and will be enhanced and activated through social interaction during the course of the exhibition. Projects by Domingo Castillo and Adler Guerrier investigate the ways in which Miami was developed and projected outwards and into the world. The projects by Archival Feedback, Gustavo Matamoros, and Graham Lambkin use field recordings and excerpts from archival sources to generate sound installations. The work of Shahreyar Ataie, Kathleen Hudspeth, Clifton Childree, and Weston Charles draw from Florida’s past, while the projects by Willie Avendano, Jamilah Sabur, Juan Maristany, and the Alliance of the Southern Triangle look back from a perceived future

MemoryLab was organized by HistoryMiami Museum and the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archives at Miami Dade College, and curated by Kevin Arrow and Barron Sherer of Obsolete Media Miami (O.M.M.)