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David Byrne spilled the beans.

Playing the Building, Minneapolis, MN

December 1, 2012

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Response by Rachel

February 26, 2013

Yesterday, it was discovered that David Byrne & St. Vincent will be performing this year at 80/35. In honor of this news, I want to share with you some recent documentation of an installation by David Byrne called Playing the Building. In various locations, Byrne temporarily attaches an organ to a large building in ways to make it sing, gyrate and whistle. At the Aria building in Minneapolis, Byrne transformed this event space into an interactive instrument. The installation invites you to play the building.

Byrne: …nobody is better at playing it than anyone else.  A six-year-old kid is as good as a trained composer or a trained musician.  So people sometimes get the mistaken idea that “Oh, oh, I can’t do this because I’m not a musician and it’s a keyboard” but then they see kids jumping down on it and people who are obviously not trained musicians and pretty soon everybody realizes that really no one’s any better at it.  It’s this leveling thing where everybody, all of a sudden, becomes a musician, of sorts anyway. Read more.

Hear a bit of the sound of Aria.

Byrne: All the super structure of the building is kind of hidden in most modern buildings.  But in these older buildings, some of that is sort of visible and especially these older buildings that have been kind of renovated or gone through a number of life cycles, various parts of that stuff tends to be exposed.  And the piece kind of makes it evident what those things are.  And I find it exciting for people.  They hit a key and they hear a sound coming from part of a building that’s thirty yards away and then the next sound comes from over on the right and the next sound is over on the left and the next one’s here and one’s far away.  And the things that they’re playing are all around them.  Read more.

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Photos and Video by Rachel


Sitting at the organ was like taking the seat on a throne. You could play for as long as you like. You can experiment with the highs and lows of the building. Pound on it. Attempt to make sense of the sounds you are making. I particularly liked the hammer-pounding keys. It was the most visual reaction of sound making. The installation of wires spewing out the back of the organ lead you to the edges of the room, exploring what they were attached to. It was glorious.