David Byrne’s Playing The Building Opens

David Byrne has announced the opening of his electroacoustic installation Playing the Building.

Playing the Building, a 9,000-square-foot, interactive, site-specific installation transforms the interior of the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan into a massive sound sculpture that all visitors are invited to sit and “play.”

Byrne’s project consists of a retrofitted antique organ placed in the center of the building’s cavernous second-floor gallery that control a series of devices attached to its structural features—metal beams, plumbing, electrical conduits, and heating and water pipes.

Says Byrne:

I felt bad that folks were waiting in a line to get in, but it was one of those lovely NY days, and lots of the folks seemed to run into old friends (I did too), so the waiting didn’t seem all that tedious. At times the party seemed to spill out to the street.

I was happy to see that the crowd has few trepidations about getting their hands on the device, and the New Yorkers were, contrary to their reputation, incredibly polite about not hogging the thing. It was also good to see such a demographically diverse crowd: little kids (well, with their parents), students, twenty-somethings, hipsters, artists and musicians (I met one of the guys from Mouse on Mars), city officials, and some folks even older than myself.

Elsewhere on my website and on the Creative Time site there is more information about the installation. It will be open to the public every weekend through most of the summer. Big thanks to Anne Pasternak, the donors, and to Mark McNamara, Justin Downs, and Danielle Spencer for their work on this piece.

As much as people enjoyed the device, I think they also enjoyed entry into an incredibly beautiful building in downtown Manhattan that was previously closed to the public for fifty years! It’s almost hard to believe such a thing could be possible, so thanks to CT and others for opening up that secret doorway in our city.

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