‘Sun Boxes’ Will Be Set Up Around the City

By relying on the power of sunlight, a strange and mesmerizing tune is created by 20 different speakers.

A solar powered art installation will be temporarily placed in four separate parts of the city during the course of a week, bringing a tranquil, musical vibe to people who happen upon it.

Beginning Thursday, sound artist Craig Colorusso will scatter small wooden objects called “sun boxes” on the lawn in Copley Square. The boxes are designed to look like Fender “champ” guitar amplifiers, but rather than cords coming out of them and plugging into an electrical outlet, each one is affixed with individual solar panels that rest on the tops of the devices.

The boxes—there will be more than a dozen placed on the ground—run using the sun’s rays, and when enough light shines on them, each one lets out a different looped guitar note that plays continuously, creating a chorus of chimes that overlap and change over time.

“No one leaves [the installation] more stressed out than when they got there,” said Colorusso. “It’s very soothing and allows people to relax and let their minds wander, and slow down and be present.”

The sounds emitted from the wooden boxes come through the speakers like microphone feedback, but in unison produce a meditative tune that’s reliant on the current weather pattern. As Colorusso explains it, “more sun, more power, more volume.”

The art installation doesn’t just interact with the weather, though. The boxes can also be manipulated by people who walk by them. Colorusso, who describes himself as a “recovering musician,” said if someone’s shadow hits the solar panels in a certain way, it can cause the sounds escaping the boxes to become quieter, or shut them off altogether.

“Basically it’s 20 speakers that’ll play one note per box, and as soon as you hear it or see it, you’re part of it. The best experience is when you’re surrounded by the piece, that’s the best intention,” said Colorusso. “I just wanted to make something people felt part of.”

Colorusso will first set up the boxes in Copley Square, on September 18, from 10:30 a.m. until sundown. The following day he will bring the artwork to Dewey Square, on Rose Kennedy Greenway, before hauling them to Boston Common on September 20, and then, finally, outside of the Children’s Museum after that.

He said he has a new set of boxes that are slightly different from the rectangular originals that he built years ago. When asked about the design, Colorusso said he wanted to keep it simple.

“The first idea was, what would it sound like if there were 20 Fender champs in the desert playing this chord? I didn’t want to get all whacky with the boxes—that’s one of the things I hate about art. I’m not afraid of the obvious. Sometimes it’s just an amp playing some music,” he said.

Colorusso has traveled all over the country with the sun boxes, dropping them in remote fields and featuring them at outdoor art events in 35 cities and 18 states. His stop to Boston will be followed by visits to Mount Holyoke College and UMass Amherst.