Trevor Mathison: From Signal to Decay: Volume 1

13 Aug-18 Sep 2022


Goldsmiths CCA is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of work by composer, artist and sound designer Trevor Mathison. From Signal to Decay: Volume 1 is his first solo exhibition in a UK institution and comprises an ambitious sound installation, a presentation of drawings, video, and live performance.

In the months leading up to this exhibition, Mathison has undertaken a sonic investigation of the Goldsmiths CCA building, producing numerous recordings using an Ambisonic microphone. These samples are periodically played back in the first basement gallery, reverberating with the architecture and providing a constant signal with which the sound pieces in other gallery spaces can converse and collide. In the Oak Foundation Gallery, for example, a number of compositions are played back, while in the back basement a video work – shot in Scotland and featuring an independent soundtrack – will be on display. In an adjacent corridor, a microphone provides a live feed from outside the building, picking up sounds from New Cross Road and the college campus. Mathison’s sound installation plays the building back to itself, using its open and porous layout as an opportunity to mix different sounds into a multi-layered composition.

The graphic and collage-based work featured in this exhibition extends across 40 years, from the early 1980s to 2022. As Christoph Cox has noted, ‘The emergence of electronic and tape music in the 1950s called for new notational techniques. How to score factory noises, or the sweeps and squiggle of sine tones?’ This is a similar problematic to the one that Mathison, with his experimentation with the tape loop and synthesizers, and interest in dub, musique concrète and industrial, was engaged. His diagrams or scores are sometimes preparatory and sometimes for imaginary sound pieces, bringing together different concerns and ideas into complex compositions. Meanwhile, the imagery and collages that Mathison produced for tape packs relate to his interest in cut-up techniques and use of the tape loop. Kodwo Eshun praised Mathison’s pioneering use of the tape loop, arguing that “Within the spectral temporality of the tape loop, the imperial anxieties of the early twentieth century resonated with the multiple fears of the present.”

Mathison has commented on the relationship between his work with sound and his recent work in drawing: “I approach drawing in the same way I approach sound. In music, I have been working with granular synths. They allow me to take one small element of sound and by breaking it down, find numerous textures within it. Similarly, [these drawings] involved taking a cube of graphite, scraping, then spreading its particles across the paper to pick up the shifting variations within the grain of the paper. It is equivalent to a single tone, shimmering like a visual wall of sound. A still, frozen note held in suspension.” Alongside these pieces are drawings for sound installations, and various works in video. This exhibition will offer a new perspective on Mathison’s ground-breaking sonic practice and his changing ideas about sound composition and installation.

Closing the exhibition, there will be a vinyl release of Mathison’s music with, the second event in this ongoing research project, titled From Signal to Decay: Volume 2.

Curated by Appau Jnr Boakye-Yiadom and Oliver Fuke.

We are very grateful to The Elephant Trust for their generous support towards the show.


Trevor Mathison is an artist, composer, and sound designer and recordist. His sonic practice centres on creating fractured, haunting aural landscapes and integrating existing music and has featured in over thirty award-winning films. Mathison was a founding member of the cine-cultural artist collective, The Black Audio Film Collective (BAFC, 1982-1998), where his body of sonic designs defined and situated the Collective’s film and gallery installations. Mathison has continued to work with some of his former collaborators from Black Audio (John Akomfrah, Lina Gopaul and David Lawson) creating sound design for installations and feature documentaries. Mathison has also founded and been active in a number of other experimental sonic groups – Dubmorphology, Hallucinator and Flow Motion. He has also been a pioneer of sound installation work.


Trevor Mathison

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