Byrne Plays The Building

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter


It seems David Byrne has lost his taste for burning down houses. Instead, the ex-Talking Heads frontman has opted for an extreme makeover of New York‘s Battery Maritime Building, not so much to renovate theManhattan waterfront structure, but to turn it into an elaborate “sound sculpture.” Yes, you heard right, Byrne has drawn up the specs for his own 9,000-square-foot, concrete-and-steel instrument. Working with Creative Time – a coterie of artists/musicians that “animate and amplify” urban-scapes – Byrne has retrofitted the building’s metal beams, plumbing and electrical conduits with features to trigger the space’s natural harmonics through a centralized antique organ placed in the center of the building’s second-floor gallery.

It seems David Byrne has lost his taste for burning down houses. Instead, the ex-Talking Heads frontman has opted for an extreme makeover of New York‘s Battery Maritime Building, not so much to renovate the Manhattan waterfront structure, but to turn it into an elaborate “sound sculpture.” Yes, you heard right, Byrne has drawn up the specs for his own 9,000-square-foot, concrete-and-steel instrument. Working with Creative Time – a coterie of artists/musicians that “animate and amplify” urban-scapes – Byrne has retrofitted the building’s metal beams, plumbing and electrical conduits with features to trigger the space’s natural harmonics through a centralized antique organ placed in the center of the building’s second-floor gallery.


“Typical parts of buildings can be used to produce interesting sounds,” explains Byrne on the project’s Website. “Everyone is familiar with the fact that if you rap on a metal column, for example, you will hear a ping or a clang, but I wondered if the pipes could be turned into giant flutes, and if a machine could make girders vibrate and produce tones.”
Stockholm, Sweden, in 2005, the Battery Maritime’s “Playing the Building” project will be available to the public starting May 31, and is scheduled to run through August 10. As the opening nears, a list of guest musicians are slated to be announced, but walk-ins will also be welcome to test their skills on the ivories.

Though originally commissioned for the Fargfabriken building in


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