The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Aug 26, 2012

John Cage: Hunted with Empty Words

Posted by Valerie Nahmad

By Gustavo Matamoros, Sound Artist/Artistic Director of the Listening Gallery

On September 5, 2012, the Listening Gallery—A Knight Arts Challenge public art project on Miami Beach's Lincoln Road—will unveil a new sound installation in celebration of John Cage's Centennial. Sounding Thru Empty Words IV is my multichannel adaptation of John Cage's 1991 performance of his piece Empty Words IV, " recorded during his participation at Subtropics Experimental Music and Sound Arts Festival.

The Listening Gallery's new installation celebrates John Cage's Centennial

In Cage's own words, Part IV of Empty Words, "… is nothing but silences and letters, taken by chance operations from Thoreau, so that twelve minutes will pass on that without me doing anything, or saying anything …" (1).

Our Festival's compact disc, Subtropics Vol. 1: Breath, released on Elegua Records, includes a short excerpt of the recording of the piece featured in this adaptation—which i have posted on our Listening Gallery website for your enjoyment (2).

It is important to know that the Listening Gallery is affixed to the facade under the awnings of the ArtCenter/South Florida's 800-810 Buildings on Lincoln Road.  As you walk down Lincoln Road, the sounds turn the corner and move away unto Meridian Avenue.  These physical conditions create a number of acoustically varied zones that define the sonic character of the installation.

Sounding Thru Empty Words IV features Cage's own voice uttering the sounds of the piece over a bed of resonant frequencies that match the acoustical signature of the Listening Gallery, frequencies that change over time as activated by the spoken  sounds, as well as in space, making audible the conditions present in each of 8 different zones.

The piece will open Wednesday, September 05, and we are planing a Centennial Celebration party that evening at Audiotheque — our Studio at 924 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach.  Other events will follow through the weekend in collaboration with ArtCenter/South Florida, FETA Foundation, PAX and Miami-Dade Public Main Library.

Sounding Thru Empty Words will continue playing around the clock through the month of October.  I say this in case you find yourself walking by it … late at night … specially on the day of Cage's birthday … it may sound like it and i hate to disappoint you, but … the place isn't hunted. (3)(4)


(1) from the clip "About Empty Words",'s Archive available at

(2) direct link …

(3) visit to learn about all other centennial events worldwide

(4) Visit for more information about centennial events in Miami

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