Artblog Celebrating 20 Years!   Support Us Today!

New York mid-week fly-by – Music on the Solstice, under a bridge, in a park and on a Highline


Steve and I went to New York last week hoping to escape the Philly heat and humidity and slip into some music and art. Make Music New York was all over town, a free, one-day (Summer Solstice only) event bringing music (and streetside pianos for passersby to play) to all parts of town. We were excited (well, I was excited) to hear live music outdoors and was very curious about a project by Nick Franglen of the British electronic duo Lemon Jelly, who was making electronic music under the Manhattan Bridge. To my mind an intervention with the bridge seemed as much performance art as music, and besides anything under a bridge has got to be worth a look and listen.

Under the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn. Beautiful vaulted ceiling. Unfortunately the constant noise of trains overhead kind of ruins the experience.

Franglen’s a trained classical musician and his music under the bridge — a high-pitched electronic tone — was all but drowned out by the almost non-stop trains passing over the bridge. The Brit, who was sporting purplish hair (sometimes it’s blue he said when I asked him why purple), was pleased with the vaulted space under the bridge. He’d done this performance before under the London Bridge and apparently that bridge doesn’t have such a grand underbelly. Part of what the artist was doing was incorporating the movement of bicycles across the bridge into his composition. He had placed a sensor in the bike lane that tripped a signal and caused the stutter below in the music. These accidental players in his piece and the stutters they caused in his composition were actually pretty interesting, although the quick absences of sound were subtle given the cacophony of the trains. We visited around 1pm and Franglen said the sound at rush hour–lots of bikes so lots of stuttering–was intense.

Nick Franglen with his electronic equipment under the bridge. Note guitar under the bench–he said he’d get it out and play at some point.

The artist said he will be making a movie about this project like he did with a similar project of his under the London Bridge. It took him some 3 months to get his one-day project in Brooklyn cleared by the city departments.

Cozied piano with young woman playing “New York, New York”

Also under the bridge, a knit-cozied piano, which actually got played (the young woman played “New York, New York).”  Because of Franglen’s electronica and mostly because of the train noise, you couldn’t hear the piano unless you were standing directly next to it.

MTA poster on the subway announcing all the wonders of the NY transit system

All day we rode the subways and were treated with uplifting MTA posters telling you what a great job the transit system was doing and how you, the rider, deserved to have such a great transit system and please, get in touch with suggestions. This take-charge approach to tooting your own horn made me think of SEPTA’s “We’re getting there” campaign, with its defensive slogan and message that, well, leave them alone already, they’re trying.  If as the poster says “A city is only as good as its transit system,” we’re in trouble.

Duke Riley’s art in the New York subway
Duke Riley Artist, part of the print in the new York subway

We’ve seen art prints in the New York subways before but never Duke Riley.  Way to go MTA art program.  Good choice of art and good choice of artist.  Riley, of course, is all about transportation.  Mainly, by water–he’s used canoes and a homemade submarine to execute his performance pieces.  This image shows some kind of travel by mermaids/mermen and dolphins in a boat that has wheels in a space that suggests underwater — but not.

The Hot Sardines, playing in Central Park’s Tavern on the Green

Late afternoon, we sat down for The Hot Sardines at Central Park’s Tavern on the Green (a once-grand restaurant now shut except for its patio, which has a bunch of food trucks lined up for snacks). There was another play-it-yourself piano nearby and it was late in the day and even Steve, who never buys water in bottles, bought and swigged down a 20 ouncer. The band played pleasant if not rousing Dixieland jazz and we were happy sitting there listening.  It was Tuesday, mind you, and the park was full of people.

The Hungry March band, playing Second Line music on the Highline.  Note the trees.

Finally, we followed the Hungry March Band in their Second Line ramble up the Highline–a true crowd pleaser. They strutted and tooted through St. James Infirmary and other New Orleans Second Line favorites and then at The Highline’s new bleacher seat area they broke out into a gypsy-salsa special that was just great.

Hungry March band majorettes who danced and pranced up the Highline with the band playing the cheerful music
Plantings on the Highline, Summer spectacular!
Up on the Highline, a lawn grows.

The Highline, by the way, is looking amazing. The plantings in the original area up to 14th St. are glorious and lush. And the new span (up to 30th St.) while not as lush, has some actual trees (small ones) and a plot of lawn grass–that was unexpected. Come on Reading Viaduct–we can do this in Philadelphia too!

In another post I’ll tell you about the art we saw–Cory Arcangel at the Whitney Museum, a Night Vision and After the Gold Rush, a couple of photo shows at the Met.  Many more photos at my flickr.