The words “New Orleans” conjure up some specific flavors, sights and sounds: gumbo, po’boys, jazz, shotgun houses. At the moment, a visionary arts organization, New Orleans Airlift, is working to bring the worlds of music, architecture and art together in a new and creative way. Dubbed Dithyrambalina, the undertaking, the brainchild of artists Swoon, Delaney Martin, Taylor Lee Shepherd and Jay Pennington, is engaging fellow artists, musicians and inventors to create a village of musical, playable houses.
It’s actually the second phase of the project. Earlier, Martin and company created the Music Box as a proof-of-concept to create what they term “musical architecture”—structures that can be played. This is not just drumming on a wall—the dwellings had instruments embedded in their walls, ceilings and floors. The project drew a stunning mix of artists and musicians, including Andrew W.K. and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, not to mention some of the leading names in the New Orleans music scene.
A stunning success, the group is aiming to recreate it permanently this time. The initial concept for this second phase involved a single structure designed by Swoon to be built on a fixed location. However, “we don’t have the funding for it and need the broad support of coalition of neighbors,” explains Delaney Martin. Instead, says Martin, “We’re building houses now and deploying them around the city—the inaugural ones have been chosen for their mobility.” For these initial structures, the team is working with a variety of organizations.
The New Orleans Master Crafts Guild is at work on one with Swoon, set to be ready next spring. “In essence, their family members have inspired our project,” says Martin, who notes many of the organization’s current members’ relatives have been responsible for the look of the city’s built environment for generations. Another collaboration brings the organization together with the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Development & Engagement. That project will push ideas of green building and sustainability further. There’s also a partnership with a university in the works, which will experiment with future structures in ways that explore technology and its intersection with music and architecture.
“It’s a phased approach,” says Martin. “No city or village appears over night. We’re slowly accumulating ideas and building styles. Even after we have a permanent site, we’ll continue to build new houses and keep it vibrant. We’ll grow things in an organic manner and strategic manner.”
To learn more and to contribute to Dithyrambalina’s Kickstarter campaign, going on now through October 20, visit here.