Times Square Hum – New York, New York - Atlas Obscura

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Times Square Hum

A pedestrian island in the middle of world-famous Times Square emits a strange (and purposeful) humming noise. 


Times Square has a few very-noticeable features: bustling crowds, bright lights, honking car horns, and shouting vendors. The landmark’s sights, sounds, and sensations have long been pleasantly overwhelming to visitors, even as they make local eyes roll.

But one feature is known for being unknown. 

Part art installation, part social experiment, this strange sound in the middle of a pedestrian plaza is not to be missed—but it is often overlooked by the people who pass by every day.

It’s a hum—a strange, hard-to-identify sound resembling a distant moving and clanking of heavy machinery. 

Rising up from what seems to be beneath the street, the hum was originally an art installation by Max Neuhaus, called Times Square, created in 1977 without signage or notification essentially to see if anyone on the world’s busiest street would notice. And like any piece of unmarked art meant to catch the attention of the public, almost no one did.

The hum has since become a tradition, and the stuff of legend. It was finally removed by the artist in 1992, only to be restored once again by a collaboration headed up by the Dia Art Foundation.

And there it remains: The strange, unavoidable, barely noticeable humming noise heard by thousands of people each day—with only a small handful of them actually noticing.

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