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New York City Art – Art Colony: Playing The Building

Posted Wednesday, June 11th, 2008 at 10:54 am by Greg in Cultural Bees. More in 10004

This week I hit up David Byrne ‘s new sonic installation at the Battery Maritime Building. If you don’t know him, he was a founding member of The Talking Heads back in the day. Using a variety of electric motors he’s made it possible to play the entire building as though it were a huge musical instrument. It’s completely mind blowing.

Here’s how to wrap your mind around this. If this were an SAT question it would look like this: “Complete this analogy; building:instrument as _______:silly” and you’d of course answer “c: Pan Flute” and then end up going to Harvard. Congratulations! You just got into Harvard!

Follow the jump to read some more.

The whole thing was pretty amazing. Every piece of metal in the main room is a note on a single on an organ that you can play. The pipes, the girders, the radiators, etc. are all playable pieces. When you press a key, it starts a motor going which vibrates the object it’s attached to. So you can play John Lennon’s “Imagine” using girders and pipes. Man, that’s a beautiful song. I mean just “imagine” (like the title says) if there were “no war” (like the lyrics say). Oh man, I am planet earth!

This video from Boing Boing TV captures much of the amazingness of both the building and the piece itself.

Don’t expect to come here and play Usher’s new hit though. The sounds are pretty deep and sound most often like whale songs. But it does sound like you’re in the whale’s brain while it’s being played. It’s like that scene in Jaws where they’re listening to the whale’s sing. Oh wait, spoiler alert! Sorry, didn’t mean to ruin the movie for anyone.

It does have some flaws in the whole plan though. It’s crawling with kids. Not kids like “I want to ride around in a stroller and defecate on myself” but kids like “I regularly play kickball, ride a fixed gear, and defecate on myself.” I guess that’s kinda the same thing, isn’t it? Well there was a bit of a line to play the single organ because of this. I guess when you’re playing a huge abandoned building as a musical instrument, it’s tough to get some practice time.

You’ve definitely got to go check this out. You’ve also got to check out my hot summer body too. I’ll be walking around with my shirt of, letting my guns enjoy the fresh air. You’ll see me.

Playing the Building
May 31 – August 10
Battery Maritime Building
10 South Street, New York
open Friday through Sunday
noon – 6pm

(all photos via DavidByrne.com )

 
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