Turning Things into Musical Things

Eight years before ex-Talking Heads member and general weirdness guru David Byrne was collaborating with St. Vincent on Love This Giant and four years before he reunited with Brian Eno to make Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, he was busy scurrying around a warehouse in Minnesota, setting up small machines at different parts of the building.

Byrne installed air compressors, hammers, and motors onto the water pipes, heating systems, plumbing, and metal girders in the infrastructure of the Aria, a historical warehouse in Minneapolis that serves as an event center. Each of these machines corresponded to the keys of a centrally-located, retrofitted organ to make an instrument capable of making a variety of mostly unsettling and echoey whistles, clacks, rattles and hums.

Byrne repeated this process with three other buildings across the world: at the Färgfabriken in Stockholm (2005), the Battery Maritime Building in New York (2008), and the Roundhouse in London (2009).

The one that remains my favorite aesthetically is the Roundhouse.  The organ lies in the dead center of the bottom floor of the cylindrical building, out of which the wires explode out and hang on the small machines Byrne installed, creating a polychromatic spider’s web.   It goes a little something like this:

This set-up makes me want to see what you could do visually with this concept.   Instead of motors, the keys could be connected to projectors that display different constellations on the ceiling against a projected sea of stars, or spectrums of light on a central object.  I’ll keep thinking about it.

I was reminded of “Playing the Building” – the name of this series of installations – by this video of the pianist Hauschka playing his augmented piano in InCase’s Room 205.  The Room 205 project, which sets up venues to the unique specifications of each episode’s featured artist, has a few other neat videos as well.  I’d at least suggest checking out Daedelus’ very blue videos.

Keep it tasty.

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Adam

Adam is a ghost, floating between layers of existence and degrees of employment. He enjoys camping, listening to headphones, looking at stars and learning new things. He used to have an small, demonstrative tortoiseshell cat named Rhu, but his iPhone has since filled that role. He strokes it, like one might stroke a cat, and talks to it.

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