Making Noise Underground in Cambridge, Massachusetts
At its best, public art completes a neighborhood. If you live or work in Cambridge’s Kendall Square, your daily commute is enhanced by the Kendall Band, three musical sculptures created by artist and inventor Paul Matisse. Suspended between the tracks, Pythagoras, Kepler, and Galileo, as they are named, invite subway riders to “play” them while waiting on either the inbound or outbound platform. Matisse, who won the commission from the Boston transit authority in the 1980s, rigged the instruments to interactive levers that effect a series of distinctly urban noises to meld with the screeching and thundering of trains: Swinging tubular bells and mallets strike each other like a carillon in B minor while a hammer ratchets F sharp out of a metal ring and a machinic roar issues from a long sheet of stainless steel. When they all sing together, you know why you love the hum of the city.