If I had a music idol in the 70s, he was David Byrne and the Talking Heads. Songs like And She Was, Psycho Killer, and Once In a Lifetime spoke to me – They were brilliant poems, profound cultural statements and musical experiences. And so when Leigh and I visited NYC last week I knew I needed to see the giant art/musical installation by David Byrne in the old ferry terminal downtown.
I suggest everyone take a weekend before August 24 and head down to the Battery Maritime Building (adjacent to Staten Island Ferry Terminal). In a wing of this historic terminal you will find Playing the Building, an experience created by David Byrne (with a group called Creative Time) that is both art and music. You enter the huge terminal space and find an old church organ. It sits in the middle, with colorful spaghetti strings of cables draping out and attaching to columns, girders and pipes. The organ pumps away (through energy of visitors) and from the keys come eccentric clangs and lovely sounds. We the public are allowed to sit at the organ and contribute to the experience. As you take the time to walk the space, you discover dimensions beyond your organ playing that at first may be hidden. The experience grows. The history and beauty still in the bones of this building come alive. Who else but an artist like David Byrne could find the ghosts of an old building and turn it into an artful, musical instrument?
For one dollar an interesting poster will serve as an installation schematic and help you ponder the work. I read that David says he tried to create “an experience in which one begins to reexamine one’s surroundings and to realize that culture — of which sound and music are parts — doesn’t always have to be produced by professionals and packaged in a consumable form.”
Thank you David Byrne for timeless, edgy, interesting art and music. You continue to fire my imagination and your work rings true for me. If you ever visit Tucson, I'll treat you to a local beer (or fruit drink or margarita) and we can talk about bones and buildings and culture and 70s music that never dies.