by Michael R. Allen
David Byrne’s installation Playing the Building is intriguing:
“Playing the building is a sound installation in which the infrastructure, the physical plant of the building, is converted into a giant musical instrument. Devices are attached to the building structure â€” to the metal beams and pillars, the heating pipes, the water pipes â€” and are used to make these things produce sound. The activations will be of three types: wind, vibration, striking. 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.”
It’s different than other sonic projects involving buildings. Two of which I am aware employ buildings as amplifiers of recorded sound rather than instruments with which to make sound. Unlike Silophone, the production and reception of sound in Playing the Building each take place in the same space at the same time, and uses that space itself to produce the initial sound. Unlike Northampton State Hospital: In Memoriam, Playing the Building involves the manipulation of the physical elements of the building.
How do we get the installation to St. Louis?