By Sven Lindahl, Marcy Nicholson and Bill Trott
David Byrne, whose band Talking Heads once sang about "Burning Down the House," is now playing the building.
Using a revamped antique pedal organ, Byrne has transformed the empty Battery Maritime Building into a musical instrument that visitors can play.
The "Playing the Building" art installation centers on the organ, which sprouts colorful tubes that lead to metal beams, columns, pipes, electrical conduits and other elements of the building. Pressing a key triggers different sounds throughout, such as clanking hammers on pipes or a motor vibrating against ceiling beams.
"When people sit down they start looking around and noticing that when they play, different things start happening around the space," Byrne said of his creation.
"It's really that moment when people just see that they're doing it themselves, that's a really wonderful moment. You can see it in people's faces," the artist-musician said while clanging and high-pitched sounds filled the air.
Byrne explained the work by saying there are sound-producing elements in large industrial spaces and it seemed obvious that they "could be organized."
The installation, which originally was on display in Stockholm a few years ago, will be in New York until August 10.