Max Neuhaus (b. 1933)
Stockhausen's Originale: Doubletakes, The Film (1964)
Max (with Dave Gearey) (1967)
American musician Max Neuhaus (August 9, 1939 Ð February 3, 2009) was a percussionist and interpreter of contemporary music of the 1960s who moved on to become a pioneer in the field of sound art, a term he rejected but with which he is nonetheless associated. He has created numerous sound works (including sound installations) that have extended sound as an autonomous medium into the domain of contemporary art.
Born in Beaumont, Texas, Neuhaus grew up in Pleasantville, a Westchester-County suburb of New York City. The music of jazz percussionist Gene Krupa inspired Neuhaus to become a drummer. The teenage Neuhaus studied with Krupa for a year before taking up with "Sticks" Evans. In 1957, after finishing high school in Houston, Neuhaus enrolled in the Manhattan School of Music, where he would receive both his bachelors and master's degrees in music. At the Manhattan school, Neuhaus studied jazz percussion with Paul Price. Yet, during his studies, he encountered the work of a group of American experimental composers who had composed music for percussion: Harry Partch, Henry Cowell, Lou Harrison, John Cage, Morton Feldman, Earle Brown, and Christian Wolff. For his graduation recital, Neuhaus decided to perform Karlheinz Stockhausen's Zyklus, a notoriously difficult piece for solo percussion.
Upon his graduation from the Manhattan School, Neuhaus toured the United States with the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble and Pierre Boulez.Impressed with Neuhaus' performance of Zyklus, Stockhausen invited Neuhaus to perform it during Stockhausen's first American tour in 1963-4. In 1963, Neuhaus began to use feedback as a musical device and used it in a realization of John Cage's open-ended graphic score Fontana Mix. He placed contact mics on percussion instruments placed in front of loudspeakers, allowing the microphones to pick up room sound, feed it back to the mic, and resonate the instrument. Neuhaus' performance consisted of setting up the equipment and modulating the amplification of the channels. Neuhaus' performance of the piece not only pioneered the use of feedback in music but was also among the first instances of what would come to be known as "live electronic music."
In 1964, Neuhaus' made his solo debut at Carnegie Recital Hall. The same year, supported by a Rockefeller Grant, he served as artist-in-residence at the University of Chicago. Neuhaus won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in 1965 which led to a Europe tour as a percussion soloist in 1965-66. In 1968 he recorded his solo percussion repertoire on Electronics and Percussion: Five Realizations by Max Neuhaus, an LP released by Columbia Masterworks under the direction of fellow experimental composer David Behrman. The record's cover featured a bare-chested Neuhaus surrounded by percussion equipment, amplifiers, and electronics. With this release, Neuhaus, then only 28, bade farewell to percussion and to live performance.
Neuhaus went on to pioneer artistic activities outside conventional cultural contexts and began to realize sound works anonymously in public places, developing art forms of his own. Neuhaus' initial foray into this practice was a project titled Listen!, which extended Cage's idea that environmental sound could be heard as music. Neuhaus would invite audiences to a venue, stamp their hands with the word "listen," and then take them on a tour of local urban and industrial soundscapes. Utilizing his sense of sound and people's reactions to it gained after fourteen years as a musician, he began to make sound works which were neither music nor events and coined the term 'sound installation' to describe them. In these works without beginning or end, the sounds were placed in space rather than in the ordinary time frame of the musical composition. Starting from the premise that our sense of place depends on what we hear, as well as on what we see, he utilized a given social and aural context as a foundation to build a new perception of place with sound. With the realization of these non-visual artworks for museums in America and Europe, he became the first to extend sound as an autonomous medium into the field of contemporary art.
He continued his activities in music with his Networks or Broadcast Works, virtual architectures which act as forums open to anyone for the evolution of new musics. In the first Public Supply in 1966, he combined a radio station with the telephone network and created a two-way public aural space twenty miles in diameter encompassing New York City, where any inhabitant could join a live dialogue with sound by making a phone call. Later, in 1977 with Radio Net, he formed a nationwide network with 190 radio stations. In one of his last projects, Auracle (2004), he constructed a twenty-four hour a day global entity for live interaction with sound over the Internet.
In his Moment works, a series of large scale sound works for whole communities, he utilizes the cessation of sound to create a periodic sense of silence throughout the community, both marking time and creating reflective moments. The most recent of these is a commission from the Dia Art Foundation for the Dia:Beacon Museum in Beacon, New York.
Over the last four decades of his life, he created a large number of sound works for various environments, including permanent works in the United States (Times Square in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago) and Europe (CAPC Muse d'Art Contemporain, Bordeaux, France; the AOK Building, Kassel, Germany; the Castello di Rivoli, Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, Italy; and the Kunsthaus Graz, Austria), along with numerous short-term works in museums and exhibitions (the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Clocktower in New York City; ARC, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Centre National d'Art Contemporain, Grenoble, France; the Kunsthalle Basel and the Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland; Documenta 6 and 9, Kassel, Germany; and the Venice Biennale, Italy), and numerous one-person exhibitions of his drawings.
His interests were diverse. He designed the sound generation and projection systems which realized his work, himself. He originated new concepts of aural urban design, and utilized his knowledge of sound technology and the psychology of sound to design a more humane and safer set of sounds for emergency vehicles. He began a ten-volume series of retrospective books on his oeuvre with the publication of Max Neuhaus: Sound Works, vols. I-III (Ostfildern-Stuttgart: Cantz, 1994).
Max Neuhaus in UbuWeb Sound