Between the two train tracks at the Kendall Square subway stop, a line of silver tubes dangles from the ceiling like a row of silent wind chimes.
One week from now, these tubes, actually bells, will once again fill the Red Line train station with music.
The restoration of the bells is the work of the Kendall Band Preservation Society, a group of MIT students who have spent the past eight months refurbishing the Kendall Band.
The Kendall Band is a structure built by Paul H. Matisse ’54 in the 1980s at the request of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and the installation allows passengers waiting for the subway to play metal instruments by pulling handles on either platform.
Originally implemented as a part of “Arts on the Line”—an initiative to improve the appearance of the Red Line—the three instruments at the Kendall Square station have since broken down.
The Kendall Band’s deteriorating condition has raised concern, according to Clarise Snyder, director of the MIT Concerts Office and one of the coordinators of the restoration project.
“[It] had fallen into such disrepair that it had become a source of frustration for the public, the MBTA, and the artist,” Snyder wrote in an email. “How much fun can anyone experience while waiting for the T other than listening to your iPod?”
The Preservation Society, a core group of about 10 MIT students, has focused its repairs on Pythagoras, the instrument composed of cylindrical bells that hang vertically between the tracks. Pythagoras is expected to be fully functional again next week, according to Michael J. Tarkanian, an MIT instructor in materials science and engineering and the director of the restoration.
On April 30, the Preservation Society, Matisse, and MBTA General Manager Richard A. Davey will host an opening celebration and improvisational musical performance at the Kendall Square T-stop.
“We always heard now and then, ‘It would be great if someone would fix it,’” said Shaymus W. Hudson, a member of the Preservation Society and a junior at MIT.
The Preservation Society took down the bells to start the repairs last July and recently reassembled them at the station. The handles that control the instrument, however, have not yet been returned.
After the group took down the handles, they put up posters to make clear that the installation was under repair. Hudson said that people have written messages on the posters thanking the group for their work.
“I just hope that people enjoy the sculpture and are glad that it’s back and get a sense of the amount of time and effort that we, and the students, put in to get this thing up and running again,” Tarkanian said.
The group plans to start repairing the remaining two instruments, called Galileo and Kepler, this summer.