In 2002 the Dia Art Foundation, whose Dia:Beacon satellite hosts Time Piece Beacon, another Neuhaus sound work, restored it. Neuhaus described the sound it creates as like “the after-ring of large bells.” It’s a meditative sound, a deep, harmonic, complex drone that music critic John Rockwell described as “like a rich organ chord…surprising and consoling.” To me it sounds like a responsive vibration that never ends, abstracting the energy of the city into something enveloping and moving and beautiful, as though this overwhelming and transitory urban space is embracing you with sound and making time stop.
The work is unmarked, meant to be discovered rather than labeled. “People, having no way of knowing that it has been deliberately made,” Neuhaus wrote, “usually claim the work as a place of their own discovering” (“Art Form’s Pioneer; Achievers’ Incubator,” New York Times, 19 February 2010).
Since Neuhaus installed his piece in the ’70s, Times Square has evolved from gritty, gaudy porno hub to Disney-fied tourist attraction, a synecdoche of New York City, where nothing stays the same, and money flattens the contours of individuality into a smooth, quantifiable curve. During the pandemic Times Square was eerily quiet. But also, for a moment, there was a chance to pause in the heart of Manhattan and feel the ghosts of all the dreams that have passed through. Now the tourists and the franchised hustlers—the Naked Cowboy, the grimy Elmo, the limp-eared Minnie Mouse—are back. And Neuhaus’s sound still resonates, creating its own aural space in the chaos of the city, bringing eternity to Times Square.