David Byrne and “Playing the Building”

David Byrne – “Playing the Building”

Noise and sound, sound and noise. Noise and music, sound and music.  For years, people have been playing around with ways to distinguish and/or blur the meanings of these words and our perception of them. John Cage and his work comes to mind; so too does Robert Fripp.

David Byrne (of Talking Heads fame) has been making music of varying sorts for many years. For this post, I am going to take a look at one of his projects from 2005 – “Playing the Building”. This project was commissioned by Fargfebriken, a cultural centre in Stockholm. After the original installation at Fargfebriken, it has been installed in New York and London. According to Wikipedia,

“The concept entailed utilizing the infrastructure of these buildings and spaces as resonating bodies to create sounds. Different methods are used to produce the sounds, including hitting columns with metal rods, strapping vibrating motors to girders, and blowing air through pipes.[1] The sounds often resemble musical instruments, including organs, flutes.”

What is central to this project is that Byrne has used various wires to connect an old organ to parts of the building in order to create sounds (music?). The results are quite amazing (or annoying, depending on how you define music –  which is sort of the whole point of the project!)

Here is a very good article about the project from the New York Times.

Here are some videos of the various installations. (Each picture below is ‘hot’.)

And here you can see the installation at the Roundhouse in London

Here is a link to the Maritime Building poster/ad for Byrne’s show.  There is a link there to a good interview with Byrne.

So, there you have it – a quick tour of an installation project, producing sound/music and exploring the borders thereof!

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