Max Neuhaus has been a visionary in the artistic use of sound for decades. In the 60s he worked with some of the most innovative musicians in America (Cage, Stockhausen, Feldman), and was a pioneer of “live electronic music.” But soon he sloughed off the constraints of traditional musical performance altogether. The limitations Neuhaus tore down include time-based sound composition and the separation of audience from performer. To free sound from the tyranny of time, Neuhaus developed the concept of sound installations, which work as audio sculptures to be experienced as spacial components of the environment (one of these pieces is located in Times Square, and maintained by the Dia Art Foundation).
To break down the isolation of audience, performer, and composer, Neuhaus began to work on community-based sound compositions in the 60s. To do this, he connected two widespread audio networks: the telephone and the radio (apparently this was before the days of call-in radio shows). By putting ten telephone lines into a radio studio in New York, and developing a device to answer them and mix the audio, he created a sound piece in which the audience was the primary composer and performer of the work. He later convinced NPR to let him repeat the project across the nation in the late 70s. For Radio Net, Neuhaus connected 200 NPR stations, five of which were accepting calls. Over the course of two hours, ten thousand people participated in a nationwide audio loop.
[Image courtesy Lawrence Markey Gallery]