Max Neuhaus Time Square

Our sound studies class had a little field trip last night to Times Square to listen to a permanent audio installation by Max Neuhaus.  It’s unmarked and if you don’t know about it, you may very well miss it.  I’d like to go back to spend some more time there — last night was absolutely freezing and I couldn’t be out in the icy wind for very long.

This is how Neuhaus describes the piece:

The work is located on a pedestrian island, a triangle formed by Broadway and Seventh Avenue, between Forty-sixth and Forty-fifth Streets in new York City’s Times Square.

The aural and visual environment is rich and complex. It includes large billboards, moving neon signs, office buildings, hotels, theaters, porno centers and electronic game emporiums. Its population is equally diverse including tourists, theatergoers, commuters, pimps, shoppers, hucksters and office workers. Most people are in motion, passing through the square. As it is a junction of several pathways across the square, the island is sometimes crossed by a thousand or more people in an hour.

The work is an invisible, unmarked block of sound on the north end of the island. Its sonority, a rich harmonic sound texture resembling the after ring of large bells, is an impossibility within its context. Many who pass through it, however, can dismiss it as an unusual machinery sound from below ground.

For those who find and accept the sound’s impossibility, though, the island becomes a different place, separate, but including its surroundings. These people, having no way of knowing that it has been deliberately made, usually claim the work as a place of their own discovering. (via propheticdesire)

Here’s a video about Neuhaus and the re-installation of the piece.  He originally installed it in the 70s and it was reinstalled in the 90s.   This is what it sounds like:

I was also quite intrigued by Neuhaus’ Silent Alarm clock invention from 1979:

It’s a device emitting a continuous tone slowly increasing in volume until it suddenly stops at the appointed time, thus awaking the sleeper. It’s not the subtle sound that actually awakes, but its disappearing.  (via Continuo)

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