As we mentioned when discussing David Byrne’s Webby, he has a new project, “Playing The Building,” which transforms the 9,000-square foot Great Hall of the 99 year-old Battery Maritime Building (on Whitehall Street, NYC) into a large-scale interactive instrument via a Weaver pump organ and some ingenuity. It’ll be up for two and a half months. You can play it. You can make “Love -> Building On Fire” references while doing so. The NY Times gets technical.
The organ’s innards had been replaced with relays and wires and light blue air hoses. And when the key was pressed, a 110-volt motor strapped to a girder high up in the room’s ceiling began to vibrate, essentially playing the girder and producing a deafening low hum — like one of the tuba tones played by the mother ship in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Or, if you were less charitably inclined, like a truck on Canal Street with a loose muffler. Mr. Byrne ran his fingers up the keyboard, causing more hums and whines, moans and plunks and clinks until he came to a key that seemed to do nothing…
Besides being fitted with several motors, which produce the bass sounds by vibrating a set of girders that once supported a stained-glass skylight in the 40-foot-high ceiling, the organ is attached to a pump that blows air through a tangle of hoses. These hoses snake into the huge room’s old water and heating pipes and conduits, making primitive flute sounds. And then there are more than a dozen spring-loaded solenoids, attached like woodpeckers to the columns and even to a linebacker-size radiator that emits a surprisingly sonorous tone when struck in just the right place with a metal rod.
We also have this video of folks making noise at the preview.
A couple solo players
A couple couples and one solo player
You should read the entire Times article. Interesting stuff. Also, another related nugget from Byrne regarding some of this thinking behind the project:
“I’m not suggesting people abandon musical instruments and start playing their cars and apartments, but I do think the reign of music as a commodity made only by professionals might be winding down,” he said in a discussion about the piece with Anne Pasternak, the project’s curator and Creative Time’s president. “The imminent demise of the large record companies as gatekeepers of the world’s popular music is a good thing, for the most part.”