David Byrne’s “Playing the Building” on BBTV

June 10th, 2008 | Category: Marginalia, Videos

My favorite Talking Head, David Byrne, turns an entire old building in New York City into a giant sound machine in an installation called “Playing the Building.” Xeni Jardin takes a tour.

Under David’s manipulation, New York’s hundred-year-old Battery Maritime Building becomes a giant sound sculpture. He explains:

Devices [have been] attached to the building’s structure — to the metal beams and pillars, the heating pipes, the water pipes — and are used to make these things produce sound. The activations are of three types: wind, vibration, striking. The devices cause the building elements to vibrate, resonate, and oscillate so that the building itself becomes a very large musical instrument.

More importantly, the organ that drives the installation is approachable and playable by anyone. The idea is to erase or smudge the line between “the creators and consumers of culture.” The skewed nature of the contraption and sounds razes the virtuoso expectations — anyone is likely to play this structure as well as anyone else, exemplifying Byrne’s belief that, “anyone can be a writer, artist, or musician if they want to.”

Here’s the video from bOING bOING TV (runtime: 10:02):

P.S. Congratulations to David Byrne on his Lifetime Achievement Webby Award. It comes well-deserved.

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