Saturday, December 10, 2011

#22: Playing the Building

Battery Marine Terminal, NYC

A few years ago, I got to participate in the half-art installation, half-mad scientist's experiment that was David Byrne's Playing the Building. For this piece of public art, Byrne (musician, urbanist, bike fanatic, and everyone's favorite Talking Head) infiltrated an abandoned maritime warehouse in lower Manhattan, then turned the building into a huge, clanging musical instrument -- all controlled by a single organ hooked up to various bits and pieces of the building itself. The space itself was haunting and beautiful: crumbling industrial pillars, concrete floors, high ceilings, and shafts of sunlight illuminating the room in great swathes of light and shadow.

Then I sat down at the control panel: a wooden organ rigged with cables and gauges that stretched out to all corners of the vast room. Press a middle C and a hammer clanged a distant radiator. Play an A chord and listen as a deep rumble filled the space. An experiment in sound-as-architecture, Playing the Building also had a deviously simple concept: invite anyone to walk in off the street and participate in the play. Today's 22 was snapped just outside the Battery Marine Terminal on the day I went to the exhibit. When I look at it, I can still hear clanging water pipes and humming ceiling beams.

An abandoned maritime warehouse as musical instrument? Yeah. I could get into that.

Why thank you! Don't mind if I do.


Anonymous said...

What challenge for the sense of sound and sight. For years now already I wonder whether one can hear light, this seems to be a step towards a positive answer.

Please have a good Sunday.

Therese Cox said...

ρομπερτ - It's a fascinating idea. By the way, I added a link to an article about the installation, which I'd forgotten to include the day I posted it. You can learn more about it there.