David Byrne Turns a Building into an Instrument
Starting May 31, New York’s Battery Maritime Building will be converted in to a giant sound installation. Playing the Building, created by David Byrne, takes the 1909 municipal ferry terminal and converts the basic infrastructure into a massive instrument for visitors to fiddle with.
Sitting in the middle of the room is a basic church organ—a little wooden one that looks well-worn. Visitors are invited to take a seat and bang away at the keys, which in turn ping, rattle, and blow air through the building’s columns, pipes, and girders through a series of low-tech cables and wires. 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 sound. The devices do not produce sound themselves, but they cause the building elements to vibrate, resonate and oscillate so that the building itself becomes a very large musical instrument.