Editor’s Note: The Music Box Village has been working hard to get their village ready, and they are holding a sneak peak on Friday, September 30 and Saturday, October 1. Local swamp-tech organist/ inventor Quintron returns to this interactive sonic village to conduct a group that includes, among many others, an underground producer and rapper from Santiago de Cuba, a visionary Kaohsiung-based sound artist, a Muscovite gusli player (the oldest Russian multi-string plucked instrument), a virtuosa darbuka player from Istanbul, and other incredible artists hailing from from seventeen different countries. They will play their own instruments in concert with a small selection of Music Box sonic structures. The concerts will run from 7:00 pm until 9:00 pm at 4557 N. Rampart Street. You can purchase your tickets here.
To learn more about the Music Box Village, listen to Kelley Crawford’s interview with Music Box Village co-founder Jay Pennington.
(WWNO interview with Jay Pennington and Kelley Crawford produced and engineered by Sarah Holtz and Thomas Walsh)
In 2011, the phrases “The Airlift,” “Music Box,” and “Roving Village” started forming sentences together. Five years later, New Orleans Airlift continues to present The Music Box Roving Village, and now that can be on a permanent basis. The Music Box has obtained a 55,000 square foot forest with an adjoining metal fabrication warehouse in the Bywater. That doesn’t mean it’s roving days are done; it just means that they’re refurbishing the word.
And refurbishing is an expertise for those at The Music Box.
As Delaney Martin, multi-media installation artist, co-founder of New Orleans Airlift and artistic director and co-founder of The Music Box explains, “These are living, breathing art projects, so they’re always changing and accommodating new circumstances.”
When you walk into the newly acquired warehouse, you see that in action. The place resembles an island of misfit toys, but all of these toys have found the stage that makes them shine. Cut PVC pipes become sound tunnels when attached to fan-like objects, old tube amps find their analogue bliss beneath floor boards, and lace that might typically be cast off into the garbage becomes ornamentation to the reclaimed and refurbished pallet wood, providing structure to one of the many houses being built and tested in the space.
Often people wonder why the musical figures are homes. Jay Pennington, musical curator of The Music Box, confesses that the merging of sounds and home are a passion for him. “All these musical houses are experiments, and the idea of homes and sounds and architecture and music and invention are part of these houses. I hear sounds of my neighbors and of the city, and those sounds are so beautiful. New Orleans is musical in every way.”
At the base of the project, the houses, and the concerts is community. “It’s a creation of so many people. We count on everyone around us to envision it,” Pennington says. And Martin mirrors his intimation by stating that, “Airlift is really about building bridges between communities. Communities of artists. Communities of people. Communities in our city.”
For those who have experienced Music Box concerts — whether that be in City Park, in Tampa Bay, or Shreveport to name a few — you know that you never exactly know what kind of sounds or interpretations of sound you will receive, even if you know the band or musician that’s playing.
Helen Gillet’s cello played through the ‘Western Electric’ exhibit, which has a spinning speaker on top that throws the sound everywhere, manipulates the way we hear her and the instrument. It allows the listener think. Experience. Challenge concepts of what they consider music and what they consider noise.
“We don’t like to explain it. Come in. Experience the thing, and then go away with your impressions,” Pennington says.
The Music Box Roving Village is a place that endorses and embraces acceptance. All forms of music and all forms of interpretation of music are welcome in that village. “We work with musicians not just because we think they’ll be great musicians, which they are in that particular show, but also because they bring in different audiences. Then we get an audience full of rapper fans, electroacoustic experimentalist fans, and all of these different kinds of people come together,” Martin says.
It’s a place where people are asked to question, to converse, to collaborate, to experience, and to enjoy, and it’s a village that New Orleans now can call part of its own home.
The Music Box is always looking for volunteers of all sorts. If anyone is interested in getting really dirty and being part of a big picture and The Music Box family then you can fill out the volunteer form, which can also be found on their website. If you volunteer four solid days then you get a 1 year membership to The Music Box.