A pioneer in the field of contemporary art and music, Max Neuhaus is credited with being the first to use sound as a medium for site-specific installations that shape space and define our sense of a place. Unlike music, bound to the transient temporality of a performance, his sound installations allow listeners to approach sound, as art, in their own time. Testing the idea that our perception of a place depends also on what we hear, Neuhaus extended sound into social spaces to create sites altered by the synthetic, anonymous sounds concealed within them.
With the recording of the first album of live electronic music in 1968, Neuhaus decided to end his brilliant career as a percussionist. In tune with the expanded-field practices of his time, he sought other means for making and delivering sounds. He first conceived of participatory radio pieces, whose feedback range was circumscribed by the network wavelength. For Times Square Piece (1977), he installed loudspeakers and electronic sound generators in the subway ventilation shafts running under the pedestrian area of Times Square, New York. The piece inaugurated a series of works wherein a continuous drone sound is nested within the urban infrastructure, altering its aural landscape in the process. His later installations are based on discontinuity and “aural afterimages,” where unmarked sounds emerge at regular intervals in a crescendo followed by an abrupt end, creating what seems a silence in the aural environment. Commissioned by Dia in 2005, Time Piece Beacon is based on the principle of “sound signal in reverse,” a subtle sound that is noticed when it disappears rather than when it begins. As each hour approaches, a low tone gradually emerges along the perimeters of the galleries at Dia:Beacon, and the hour is signaled when the sound abruptly ends.
This book offers an in-depth look at two Max Neuhaus works in Dia's collection, Times Square and Time Piece Beacon.