Born 1933, New York, NY
Works in Groton, MA

Year created: 
The Musical Fence, Paul Matisse

Paul Matisse. The Musical Fence. 1980. Aluminum sounding bars, reinforced concrete. 6' 6" x 1 1/2" x 20'. Lent by Cambridge Arts Council, MA

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6' 6" x 1 1/2" x 20'

aluminum sounding bars, reinforced concrete
Lent by Cambridge Arts Council, MA

The Musical Fence, an interactive public artwork, is a combined sculpture and musical instrument created by artist and inventor Paul Matisse. Its vertical aluminum pipes are tuned not to a standard musical scale, but to create a pleasant tune when struck gently with wooden sticks. The undulating profile of the sculpture was determined as much by the desired sound sequence as by visual concerns. According to the artist, whose main interest lies in the interaction of humans and art, "The Musical Fence came out of my enthusiasm for being able to make music without having to know exactly how to do it."

The Musical Fence was originally installed with a sister sculpture, tuned somewhat differently, as a public art piece in the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Its immense popularity proved problematic, however, in the urban environment. Passers-by played the fence at all hours, causing its relocation to the less residential environment of the DeCordova Sculpture Park. Paul Matisse has created other public sound sculptures, most notably an installation for the Kendall Square mass transit station in Cambridge in 1987.