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Secrets of MASS MoCA: Hearing the Light

Upon entering MASS MoCA, look up in the sky.  You’ll see upside down trees and the Berkshire Mountains.  You may also notice our clock tower, resident of the Marshall Street Complex since 1895.

This clock is unlike any other time-teller‚ÄĒit depends on chance.¬† The clock, named The Clocktower Project,¬†rings every 15 minutes, yet each time it rings produces a new sound.¬† This is because the ringing of the bells depends on both the quality of light and time of day.

 

Solar panels on the edge of the clock tower help determine what type of sounds will be created.  A computer program interprets the light information provided by the panels, then triggering different sounds based on the data.  Artist Christina Kubisch, a classically trained musician, prerecorded herself playing the bells in a variety of ways.  She hammered, brushed, and struck the bells, in addition to ringing them in the traditional sense.  As the light changes, the computer prompts a different ringing of the bells.

If you visit MASS MoCA on a warm, sunny morning the bells are loud and metallic.  If you hear them on a cold, dark afternoon, they will be softer and more somber.  The bells play off the light, but also often reflect how our emotions are affected by the weather.

There are two exceptions to our clock tower.  Every day at noon and 5pm, the clock produces brief pre-set concerts.  Aside from that, each day provides a unique series of music due to the incredible range of weather in the Berkshires and the computer program preventing musical repetition.

As night arrives, the bells fall silent since the clock needs sunlight to ring.  However, clock face becomes illuminated, continuing to use the light to tell time.

Just one more reason MASS MoCA is never the same two days in a row.

By Linnea DiPillo

Posted October 24, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Secrets of MASS MoCA, Solar energy
1 Comment »

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One Comment on “Secrets of MASS MoCA: Hearing the Light”

  1. tom adams Says:

    very cool. here’s a few more shots of the clock & other interesting views from up-on-the-roof that I took while getting photos for the hip-hop show a few months ago: http://folktography.zenfolio.com/massmocahiphop

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