LS & Kris Remix the Building

Playing the Building: An Installation by David Byrne

Last summer, Kris and I went to David Byrne’s Playing the Building installation in Lower Manhattan, which consisted of an old organ rewired to trigger various mechanisms that play sounds off of architectural elements in the building. We recorded audio of us playing the building, which we remixed into a new musical composition for Day 1 of 4-in-4.

Remixing the Building, our reinterpretation of Byrne’s installation, is less a piece of music and more a soundscape portrait that at once scoffs at traditional notions of tonality and probes the turbid depths of human experience; those who experience it will never be the same. Roughly fashioned into three micromovements, the opening unrolls an atmospheric audio-palate onto which is grafted a slowly evolving series of events, each representing both the manifestation of a physical structure, and the emotional reaction of one’s lived experience within it. The second part introduces an unsettled urgency whose rhythmic kernel is the nonsensical babbling of a young child, conveying innocent, redemptive purity juxtaposed against a decrepit physical structure which had long been used but recently abandoned. With this musical patchwork having been established, a series of lyrical melodies based on an F-B-C progression strives upward in a representation of humankind’s elemental ambition to become god. A limping offbeat invokes the image of Wilford Brimley-esque geriatric exhaustion, ultimately giving way to a dissatisfied sigh of resignation. Silence is abruptly shattered by an angry cacophany, in what listeners will recognize as a rudely conceived false ending. This coda is short lived, however, as even the last gasps of strength mustered by humanity have failed to forestall the ultimate outcome of existential failure. The final stab of sound is less a dying breath, and more the lifeless noise of a flinching corpse. This score leads us to consider the brevity and meaningless of life, and the futility of our naive attempts to assert ourselves against the cruel machinations of an indifferent cosmos.

4-in-4 is a group event based on the New York University ITP resident researchers’ project 7 in Seven and the ITP student project 5-in-5, both of which took place in 2008. The premise goes something like this:

Do a creative project every day for four straight days, starting Monday, January 12th, 2009.

Projects must be completed in a day, so they need to be as compact as they are creative.

Each project needs a name and documentation posted by the end of the day. It should be a stand-alone accomplishment.

Playing The Building: An Installation by David Byrne

Playing the Building: An Installation by David Byrne

Today, Kris and I went to check out Playing The Building: An Installation by David Byrne at the Battery Maritime Building, an old abandoned ferry terminal in Lower Manhattan. The installation consists of an old organ wired to various parts of the building with wires. Pressing the organ keys “plays” the building by triggering various mechanisms that create sound. An eerily, almost haunted house sort of feel. Perhaps it’s just easier to listen for yourselves: here is an MP3 recording of Lee-Sean and Kris playing the building. Here are 3 more recordings of other visitors playing the building.

Playing the Building: An Installation by David Byrne

More photos of Playing the Building on Flickr

Playing the Building: An Installation by David Byrne

More photos of Playing the Building on Flickr