John & Anne Wiley

2011/05/09

Boston Quartet

Common, Adams, John, and Art today. First we strolled the Common, where we saw the common scene of a boy chasing a squirrel.

9454 Common

9454 Common

The rodent won. There’s plenty of revolutionary history, and earlier, in this the first park (converted from an overgrazed cow pasture that coined the term “tragedy of the common”) in the world. Democracy won.

9466 Statehouse

9466 Statehouse

Then we strolled Winter Street until we came to Summer.

9479 Winter & Summer

9479 Between Seasons

After quickly figuring out the Boston subway system (about 30 minutes with help from several people) we rode out to Quincy, which of course is home to lots of Adams Family stuff. Not the TV show, two U.S. Presidents and a truly remarkable woman named Abigail. The sequel to George Washington (hint: John Adams) was born here, and we found it moving to imagine him running around the large farm and tracking mud in the back door.

9484 John Adams' Birthplace

9484 John Adams' Birthplace

It’s now on the corner of a busy street surrounded by nail salons and other miscellanea, but without the boy born here things might well have turned out differently for us. After some time here and at other apples of Adams’ eye we hopped the train back through Boston out to Harvard, named for another John.

9522 John Harvard (sorta)

9522 John Harvard (sorta)

This lovely bronze of John Harvard apparently isn’t him. They didn’t know what he looked like, so some other guy was chosen to pose for the sculpture to honor the man who inspired this inspiring American institution. The campus and surrounding town are much as you’ve seen and imagined, and lots of fun to wander.

9529 Cambridge

9529 Cambridge

Back on the subway for the quick ride to M.I.T. where we met Art. In this case the FAST kind. It was a show named FAST Light (Festival of Art, Science & Technology), distributed around the campus and attracting large and diverse crowds of people wandering around with free maps and wide eyes.

9558 Stairlight

9558 Stairlight

9593 Art Eyes

9593 Art Eyes

It didn’t take long for us to get “art eyes” that make everything art. Looking across the Charles from campus, our eyes were wide just like those first people we saw looking at the installation.

9602 Floating Art

9602 Floating Art

The blue line you see is colored lights that were pulsing and changing all along the span of the Harvard Bridge, on the massive sculpture that’s red/orange here, and the blue balls (some of which faded to green). I wondered how distracted drivers on the bridge were. Strolling back through campus toward the subway, another artwork next to a ripping good drum circle had people dazzled.

9603 White TunneLight

9603 White TunneLight

A somewhat similar work transformed a hallway between buildings.

9614 Hall of Light

9614 Hall of Light

The moon even put on a show above the fanciful new jumble of buildings on campus.

9627 Moon Over Jumble

9627 Moon Over Jumble

To complete our mesmerization, the subway had an artwork of its own.

9628 Subway Self-Serve Sound

9628 Subway Self-Serve Sound

Each side of the platform has a large metal lever. In the narrow corridor between tracks and platforms is a row of tubular bells. The levers activate pendulums (they look like upside-down sledge hammers in this pic), that strike the bells. In the silence between trains, a new crowd assembles waiting for their trains. Someone with the right combination of curiosity and playfulness often notices the lever, reads the directions, and starts rocking the lever back and forth to swing the pendulums. A soft tone sounds, followed by other tones in an arpeggio that forms an angelic chord hanging in the stunned silence on the platforms. Looking around, people notice the bells and then the person pulling the lever. Across the track, someone often finds and activates that lever. Soon there is a slow symphony of bells, smiles and serenity. Then a noisy train screeches in and a new performance begins. Or not. Either way, life is Art.

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