T stop’s Pythagoras is back

Kendall Band Society completes 13 mo. repair

Paul Matisse, the artist behind the Pythagoras musical sculpture in the Kendall T station, attends the Kendall Band re-installation ceremony on April 30. In 2010, the MIT Kendall Band Preservation Society embarked on a 13-month restoration project to repair the hanging set of hammers and chimes.
Sina mohammadi
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Pythagoras, the musical art installed in the Kendall T station, was recently restored by MIT’s Kendall Band Preservation Society. The society plans to repair smaller Kendall installations this summer.
Sina mohammadi

The familiar sound of bells has been resurrected at the Kendall T Station after a 13-month restoration effort of Pythagoras by the MIT Kendall Band Preservation Society. The swinging set of aluminum chimes — controlled via handles mounted on the walls of the station — was created by local artist Paul Matisse for the station 23 years ago. It deteriorated to the point where the platform controls became dysfunctional in 2007 due to wear and tear.

The idea for the restoration project began in the summer of 2009 when Seth Parker, a resident of Newton, contacted Clarise E. Snyder, the concert director of the Music and Theater Arts department, asking who would be able to fix the art piece. Noting the suitability of MIT students for the task, Snyder said, “I immediately thought it was a good match,” adding, “I thought that students here would probably be very interested in getting involved.”

Snyder emailed music groups and found several interested students and a faculty member, Course III Technical Instructor Michael J. Tarkanian ’00, to oversee the project. “I was a student here, so I’ve seen the sculpture over the years, and I thought it would be something cool to work on,” Tarkanian said. Together, Tarkanian and the core group of students formed the MIT Kendall Band Preservation Society.

The team took down the handles on the platform in April 2010, and during the summer they spent two days taking down the bells and hammers between the tracks. “That was from around one in the morning to about four in the morning. … That’s the only time we can go down there,” said Shaymus W. Hudson ’12, who joined the project last spring after receiving an email from Tarkanian. “It was a lot of fun though.”

In January of this year, the group set a goal of completing the restoration of Pythagoras by the open house on April 30. According to Tarkanian, they worked an average of six to eight hours per week during most of the term, except during spring break, when they worked all day. The team, however, was restricted to working on the platform handles outside rush hours, while reconstruction of Pythagoras was limited to the overnight hours.

The group was also stymied by the fact that they did not know which parts were broken before taking the sculpture apart. “We just evaluated as we went,” Tarkanian said.

Students involved with the restoration effort also took the opportunity to clean the bells, which had accumulated years of dirt and grime. “We built a lathe so that we could take scour pads and make it all shiny. After the first one was done, it was so pristine. It was pretty amazing,” Hudson said. “After we finished putting everything up, I remember one of us went up to it and rotated it and started playing with it. You could see all the bells moving again; it was pretty great seeing all that work finished and seeing the whole entire product in operation, and it looks really, really nice.”

The group is planning to restore the remaining two T-stop sculptures, Galileo and Kepler, sometime this summer, although no concrete timeline has been set. Tarkanian predicted their restoration would not take as long as that of Pythagoras. The group also has plans to create CAD drawings so future restorations have somewhere to begin. “We’re kind of maintaining the sculpture long-term, so now that there’s an official MIT student group involved, hopefully it will be taken care of well into the future,” Tarkanian said.