Monday, January 28, 2013

Artists visualize urban music box

Music Box could be permanent attraction

The Music Box was an elaborate trial balloon, meant to determine if music and architecture could really meld.
If celebrated New York street artist Caledonia “Swoon” Curry, New Orleans art impresario extraordinaire Delaney Martin and their circle of creative collaborators have their way, the “Music Box: A Shantytown Sound Laboratory” temporary performance space could become a permanent fixture on the Crescent City cultural scene.
The Music Box was an enchanting installation of musical sculpture on an empty Piety Street lot in the Bywater neighborhood. The installation became the site of a splendidly strange experimental concert series in 2011 and 2012. Avant-garde art lovers lined up for a half-block for a chance to sit in the rough-hewn stands – or on the cold bricks for that matter – to watch musicians coax cogent sounds from the clunking, plunking, whirring, plinking instruments, which were made from plumbing pipe, floor boards, a spiral stair and other architectural debris. Each eccentric music-making device was housed in an individual shack, crudely constructed from recycled wood and building supplies. Hence the name: shantytown.
What most onlookers didn’t know, was that the Music Box was a test run for a much more ambitious future project. Curry thinks big. Though she hadn’t been officially invited, she once sailed a wildly decorated raft made of junk through the Venice canals during an international art exhibit, pirate style. Before the Music Box took shape, Curry envisioned a three-story musical house to be built on the Piety Street space – where a blighted house once stood. To better envision the idea, she built a charming, three-story wedding cake–shaped miniature of the structure, which she dubbed the Dithyrambalina. Trouble was, nobody – Curry included – knew exactly how a Dithyrambalina was supposed to work.
The Music Box was an elaborate trial balloon, meant to determine if music and architecture could really meld. The balloon couldn’t have flown much higher.

Music Box art installation could become permanent fixture
Music Box art installation could become permanent fixtureWatch as artists Caledonia “Swoon” Curry and Delaney Martin discuss their plans to make the Music Box: A Shantytown Sound Laboratory a permanent New Orleans fixture. The Music Box was an enchanting installation of musical sculpture on Piety Street that was used to produce splendidly strange experimental concerts in 2011 and 2012. Even before the sold-out concerts and national critical acclaim, Curry, Martin and their cast of talented collaborators imagined a fanciful architectural building to house the odd instruments permanently. Now they’d like to make that dream a reality.

Now, Curry, Martin, architect Wayne Troyer and the marvelous gang of artists and musicians who produced the Music Box are back at it. On Tuesday (Jan. 22) they revealed a joyously rambling cardboard model of what the permanent Music Box might look like. The new model is even giddier than the original design. Outside, the dollhouse-sized construction is a delightfully dizzy array of sloped roofs, staircases, fairy tale balconies and thoroughly unmatched windows, all united in a vaguely Victorian style. The inside is a hive of small mezzanines, meant to contain individual instruments.
Bending down to peep in the windows and doors of the model helps you imagine the possibility that such a marvelously mad structure could someday be real.
That’s the desired effect.
Curry and Delaney remained rather coy when discussing the details of the project at this early stage. In scale, the building is meant be a neighborhood landmark, as large as, say, a church. Of course churches come in all sizes. The largish building, they said, will be placed in a still unselected neighborhood where they’re sure it’s welcome in advance. Curry and Martin are too clever to try to impose such an audacious addition to  the streetscape in neighborhood that doesn’t really want it. The design concept is meant to bend to fit the selected location, so, despite the laboriously made model; even the appearance is in flux. One thing’s for sure, the permanent Music Box will cost plenty. But just how much, they wouldn’t guess.At this stage, the Dithyrambalina is just a collective dream. 
Curry and Martin hope the dream is contagious.
Money for art projects is always tight, never more so than since the 2008 economic downturn. Art institutions across the city have suffered. In this economic environment, finding funding for a presumably impractical project like the Dithyrambalina seems incredibly tough. But what a magical venue this could be? What a unique attraction? What a jewel in the Crescent City cultural crown?
They don’t call this place the land of dreamy dreams for nothing, right?
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