What’s that hum?

On 46th Street, just south of the over-lit, over-crowded intensity of Times Square there’s a peaceful drone that could easily be mistaken for a vibrating hum of the subway, or maybe the whirr of distant piece of forgotten machinery still plugged it at the end of the workday. But upon closer aural inspection – if a hectic tourist is so inclined which we’re guessing they are not – the sound is much more like a perpetual gong, the hum that resonates long after the crash of the mallet.

The sound is not jarring. The hum is not overwhelming. In fact, it reminded me a bit of the white noise pumped into the air above my office cubicle.

While we were there, we saw no fewer than 40 people standing on, or near the grating, some taking pictures, some mindlessly texting, some just hurriedly stomping across. But we couldn’t imaging that they did not each, at least subconsciously, notice the soothing noise emanating from below.

The sound is clearly unnatural, and we know the source, but there’s also no plaque to be found, no touristy text to share the source with anyone else. It is, in fact, a work of art, entitled Times Square by renowned audio artist Max Neuhaus.

Originally installed way back in 1977, and, according to reports was disconnected in 1992 when Neuhaus dismantled it because he had to return to Europe and the piece required constant monitoring. After much political wrangling and after asking nicely, Neuhaus’s project was returned on May 22, 2002 where it has remained twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Next time you’re in NYC – check it out, here’s a video I found on youtube that allows you to experience the sound. Click here.