The Music Box: New Orleans, LA

Music Box was a phantasmagorical temporary installation based in the historic, Bywater neighborhood in New Orleans on Piety Street. The project was the sound-child of a vibrant local arts organization called New Orleans Airlift, founded after Hurricane Katrina devastated their city and left the livelihoods of so many artists and citizens in peril.

After acquiring an abandoned 18th century Creole cottage, New Orleans Airlift directors contacted their friend, the famed street artist, Swoon, to take a look at the site. Swoon, a Florida-born artist who gained renown for her realist graffiti, had recently finished a series of “swimming cities” – floating rafts of salvaged materials transformed into floating curiosity cabinets that traveled from the Adriatic Sea to Slovenia to Venice in the spring of 2009. Swoon’s background in creating wonder through interactive projects made her the perfect partner to build a musical house with.

Together with 25 other artists and New Orleans Airlift co-founder, Delaney Martin, “Music Box” was born. Using materials salvaged from the creole cottage, the group built a temporary shantytown sound lab in which newly constructed shacks either housed eclectic instruments, or became the instruments themselves. Thatched roofs were outfitted with Balinese vibraphones; floorboards were amplified and foot-operated pipe organs were inserted into rusty spiral staircases, and the public was invited for a series of 8 concerts between the fall 2011 – spring 2012, when local and international musicians and performers took to their provisional stages and – literally – brought the house down.

“Music Box” was always envisioned as a stepping-stone towards a larger project called “Dithyrambalina” which New Orleans Airlift is hard at work on. Dithyrambalina will be a permanent architectural and musical venue that the public can come and play any time of year.