SEPT05, 2012 | 24-7 through OCT
listening gallery | under the awnings | 800-810 lincoln road, miami beach, FL 3313

The Listening Gallery is pleased to present the public art installation titled Sounding Thru Empty Words IV –featuring John Cage’s own performance of Empty Words IV of April 5, 1991, during Subtropics Music Festival in Miami–conceived for the Listening Gallery by Gustavo Matamoros.  The installation opened September 5th (Cage’s birthday) and was experienced daily and around the clock through October, 2012. To listen, people simply walked under the awnings of ArtCenter | South Florida’s 800-810 buildings, at the corner of Lincoln Road and Meridian.

Sounding Thru Empty Words IV is the result of the tracing of a performance by John Cage. The work itself is a shadow of that performance created with the intent of bringing out the acoustical signature of the Listening Gallery’s space.  Imagine resonance—the frequencies a certain architecture favors over others.  The Listening Gallery spans about 180 feet along the facade of the ArtCenter/South Florida’s 810-800 buildings, and in its path, it defines eight different acoustical zones, each with its own set of resonances.  To make them audible, a sounding consists of simple tones, generated, tuned to match the resonances, and then combined to build sonorities of up to eight distinct tones. Sounding Through Empty Words IV uses Cage’s own voice to activate the acoustical sonorities of the eight zones.  Pedestrians perceive tonal changes as they walk from zone to zone—changes which represent the acoustical signature of each zone.

This time, the voice of John Cage is included with the sounding in honor of his centennial and with permission from C.F. Peters.  But, the sounding itself includes no words and can be exhibited as a stand alone piece.  John Cage’s piece Empty Words IV—itself extracted by means of chance operations from a text by Henry David Thoreau —consists of letter vocalizations and long periods of silence.  This sounding fills these long silences with faint resonant tones that swell with each vocalization.  Take the voice away, and you end up with Sounding Thru Empty Words IV.

Listening to an excerpt of the sound installation:

An excerpt of Cage’s 1991 performance of Empty Words IV is available as part of Subtropics Vol. 1: Breath a compact disc release on Elegua Records.

The following video from SFCA []’s archive contains part of an informal lecture John Cage conducted at Broward Community College in 1975—perhaps his first visit ever to the South Florida area.  In the segment Cage describes Empty Words IV and tells anecdotes about a performance he gave of the piece to an audience of disciples at a Buddhist monastery.


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The Listening Gallery is an ongoing public art installation that offers sound art to millions of pedestrians visiting Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road annually.  Its exhibits are free, open to the public and available around the clock, 365-days-a-year.


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The opening of Sounding Through Empty Words IV is part of the John Cage birthday celebrations Wednesday SEP05, organized by SFCA [] at ArtCenter/South Florida on Lincoln Road.  The evening celebrations also include an installation version of Water Walk, and a Happening Birthday Party.

These are also part of a weekend festival in collaboration with FETA Foundation.  For more information about those activities visit our main portal page:



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Empty Words. Copyright © 1975, John Cage. Used by permission of C. F. Peters Corporation.  All Rights Reserved.

This adaptation of John Cage’s Empty Words IV by Gustavo Matamoros was organized for the Listening Gallery by SFCA [] with generous support from:

John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, by the City of Miami Beach Cultural Affairs Program and Cultural Arts Council, by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, and by Miami-Dade County Mayor, the Board of County Commissioners and the Cultural Affairs Department, as well as by Sennheiser, manufacturer of state-of-the-art tools for audio professionals. It is also possible with the generous support of our partner organization Artcenter/South Florida