With Max Neuhaus, one of the most renowned representatives of sound art created an artwork for Stommeln Synagogue. Unlike most of the artists before him, however, he chose to design his sound installation “Time Piece Stommeln” not for the Synagogue’s interior, but for the public space surrounding it: Time Piece Stommeln sounds in the centre of town, and is heard across the entire expanse of the town square. The sound starts at a virtually imperceptible level, blends almost inaudibly with the background sounds, continues to swell for several minutes, then ceases abruptly, leaving a sensation of tranquillity. The sudden acoustic vacuum makes listeners truly aware of the preceding, now silenced, synthetic sound, as well as of the natural ambient noises, which now seem louder, in a way “purified,” in the sudden silence.
By designing his sound signal for the market square outside the Synagogue, the artist moves the building – which is actually tucked into a backyard – acoustically in the centre of town. Thus the Synagogue moves into the hub of town life. Neuhaus gives it “a voice as the uninhabited house of the spirit” that brings back to mind what used to be a part of Stommeln, and simultaneously makes its loss acutely felt.
The Synagogue’s “voice” sounds twelve times a day, following the Halakhic hours under Jewish religious law that defines the ritual times for prayer, among other things. Accordingly, the time span between sunrise and sunset – subject to seasonal shifts – is divided into twelve units of equal length, the Zmanim. While the interval between the sound signals is no more than forty minutes in the wintertime, the measure almost an hour and a half in summer.