It's not often that you get a chance to play a highly unusual instrument. And doubly so when that instrument happens to be a very old building in Downtown Manhattan. Until August 24th that is exactly what artist and musician David Byrne is asking you to do. Using an ancient organ as the keys, he has transformed a grand old hall in the 1908 Battery Maritime Building into an entirely acoustic super-keyboard. Emptying out the guts that would formerly have created tones, and replacing them with long tubes connecting to radiators, cut up pipes and other clanking bits, Byrne has substituted the architecture of the building for the music making core of the antique organ.
Visit this piece for a chance to experience a part of old maritime New York, and to watch how everyone responds to the music making moment that the event offers you. Many people were initially afraid to touch the keyboard when I visited on Friday, to be responsible for the sounds that everyone will hear. But once they realized these sounds are nothing like the musical notes we expect, the freedom to play and experiment offered up an opportunity to make noise without a pre-established sense of accomplishment in mind. A few musicians took center stage and really pushed the experience to a much more interesting moment and I was happier for it. Not too say "only musicians need apply", but I thought what a wonderful chance to mess about with this sound making device, on a truly massive scale. Sort of like being let into a cathedral when everyone was out to lunch and getting a chance to play Motorhead. So pop on "Ace of Spades" and get your air piano chops up to speed. You've only got a few weeks to hurry down to play the building. And while you're at it, visit the waterfalls, again. I went a second time because I had a friend in town from LA, and it was another wonderful and unique experience.