Playing the Roundhouse – an installation by David Byrne


This is no ordinary installation. The visitors are expected to play not a music instrument but a whole building. An old organ in the middle on the huge roundhouse connects to all the pillars of the dome. The sounds of the organ are in fact emitted by the structure of the building.

I was surprised to arrive at the Roundhouse on the first day of the interactive sound installation and find a short queue waiting to sit at the organ and “play the building“.

The crowd at midday was composed by some “culturally active” and straightforward arty visitors and a few parents with kids. The sound itself didn’t impress my 2 years old son. The keyboard of the organ is divided in three sections: motor, pipes and percussion. The sounds are too grave, dissonant and too metallic and acute respectively. The result is a bit of an resonating cacophony, even when the building is played by musicians.

The stage is however spectacular and dramatic. The organ looked like the brain of a crazy scientist connected to the building by the multicoloured axons of its neurons.

Thank you David Byrne for the experience. The installation is hosted by the Arts Council and Camden for the experience.

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