Pioneering sound artist Max Neuhaus has died of cancer at his home in Marina di Maratea, Italy, according to a report in the Houston Cronicle. In a career that spanned 50 years, the Texas native brought people’s attention to the aural experience of space through sound installations, a term he coined. After abandoning a career as a percussionist in the early 1960s, Neuhaus began to realize anonymous sound works in public spaces, such as his 1977 installation under a subway grating in Times Square.
In addition to Times Square, which was removed in 1992 when he moved to Europe, and then reinstalled in 2002 by the Dia Art Foundation and the Times Square Business Improvement District, Neuhaus has many other “permanent” installations, including one at Dia:Beacon, one at The Menil Collection in Houston, and several in Europe. He also completed numerous temporary works at such prestigious cultural institutions as MoMA and the Whitney. As well as conceptualizing each work for its specific space, Neuhaus built the sound generating machines himself.
Neuhaus also created a series of broadcast works, in which he collected and mixed live sounds from public callers to create improvised music ensembles on the radio. In 1966 he conducted Public Supply, in which people called in from all over New York City to say “Hi Mom,” caw, scream, laugh, talk about bananas, and generally babble. In 1977, he conducted Radio Net, a two-hour sound work that gathered noises generated by callers in a nationwide network of 190 radio stations. With Radio Net, callers were invited to whistle, play kazoo, or generally make any noise they could think of. These sounds were then processed through synthesizers to create spooky electronic noises which Neuhaus mixed together from a control station in Washington, D.C. Neuhaus also took advantage of the internet with auracle, an online instrument that can be played by anyone with access to a computer. Check out audio from Public Supply and Radio Net as well as videos on these and Neuhaus’ other works here.