David Byrne’s Playing the Building—if you didn’t know—was an art installation in the Aria building in the North Loop. Here’s the elevator pitch: A large warehouse is cleared out, retrofitted with weird noisemakers (motors, pipes, etc) all connected to a central organ—an organ which you can play. So when you punch a key, no organ pipe sounds, but in a distant (or not so distant) warehouse cranny, a sound originates. You really do play the building. Sounds pretty cool, right?
Well it is, pretty cool, that is. The Aria warehouse is a stark open space that creates a certain sense of the grandiose when seated at the organ. On the second floor, the building does provide a few listening rooms outfitted with vintage decor. But initially, we wandered through the open spaces listening to people bang on the organ. Or at least, that’s certainly what it sounded like.
The source of the musical incoherence became clear when it was our turn to “play the building.” It was impossible. And that’s saying a lot coming from someone that played online casino piano until the age of 11 (just kidding). As the line formed behind us while we played the organ, the ridiculous sounds that we were creating sounded sillier and sillier.
Overall, the concept—creating an instrument out of a building—turned out to be a little cooler than the idea in practice. Nevertheless, it was worth experiencing. We ended up wandering out of the building after about a half hour, and that was about as long as you would want to spend there.
This would be a great first date if you:
- Like musical experiments (or any experimental thinking of any sort).
- Aren’t good at the piano (because if you are, you might be disappointed at how bad your music sounds).
- Are or are not claustrophobic. You will feel no claustrophobia (unless you’re super claustrophobic, in which case you likely have trouble entering buildings).
- Can maintain conversation over coffee or a drink. You’ll probably want to grab one before or after, because this won’t keep you entertained for too long.
Unfortunately, you just read this, but you can’t go. It’s over (this was more of a review than a preview). But there’s always cool art around. Check out the Soap Factory—they’ve always got good stuff.