Beep-Beep, Toot-Toot: David Byrne Plays the Whole Building

David Byrne: Playing the Building

New Yorkers would be quite willing to pay good money to silence the daily Manhattan Symphony, which is a cacophony of sounds composed and performed by the din of garbage trucks, car speakers, bus brakes, warped manhole covers, knocking radiators, people yelping down from high windows and the racket of numerous blaring television sets.

But in a paint-peeling hangar, the old Great Hall of the 99-year-old Battery Park Maritime Building (a former ferry terminal) at the very foot of the Manhattan, David Byrne, the avant-garde artist and musician, is purposefully making such music, although many might not call it that.

David Byrne’s Playing the Building is a sound installation in which the infrastructure of The Maritime Building has been converted into a giant musical instrument.  Devices are attached to the building structure, to the metal beams and pillars, the heating pipes, the water pipes, and are used to make these things produce sounds.  Pressing the keys of a beat-up Weaver pump organ, its innards replaced with relays and wires and air hoses, activates three types of sounds: winds, vibrations and strikings.  The devices do not produce the sounds themselves, instead they cause the building elements to vibrate, resonate and oscillate so that the building itself becomes a very large musical instrument: a gargantuan cast-iron orchestra.

Playing the Building: A Tour

Installing “Playing the Building” at The Battery Park Maritime Building

More here.

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