The Whimsical Musical Architecture Of New Orleans Airlift

December 16, 2014

Chateau Poulet is the latest in the musical architecture series of New Orleans Airlift. Co-founder and artistic director Delaney Martin says, yes, that name would translate to: Chicken House.

“I don’t know where they got that,” Martin says. “It does have a creature-like visage, I think.”

Airlift started making musical houses in 2010 with the Music Box, a Shanty Town Sound Laboratory. It was a small village of structures that were also instruments. Over 100 musicians played concerts in the Music Box and 15,000 people visited it.

“We’re all artists, we all kind of came to this project to work with other people and be collaborative,” says Martin. “What we say we do is create public art that’s experimental and that’s deeply collaborative and hopefully inspires some wonder in the world.”

Martin describes the latest work like this:

“It’s like about 20 feet tall. It’s based on the idea of fans — spinning kind of ceiling fans, but they’ve attached these little plastic tubes to it, and it makes an amazingly beautiful, haunting sound.”

Chateau Poulet was created by Klaas Hubner, a Berlin artist, and Andrew Schrock of New Orleans. Hubner and Shrock explain how the instrument works to a group of visiting students from Make Music NOLA.

“Now we can just switch it on and we show you a little bit how the system works. How we can control the speed of the fans and change the pitch,” he says. “So instead of having to have 50 arms and spin them all around your heads, we can just pull the ropes and it does the work for us.”

Hubner chimes in, “Now it comes in at a certain point and I can make it faster. See? One, two, three sounds, right?” The sound shifts, and the kids hear the difference.

Martin asks the kids if the chateau looks like a musical instrument. They shake their heads, no.

“It looks like a treehouse.”

“It looks like a playground.”

“It looks like a treehouse with no tree on it.”

But the sound, they say, is like angels.

“Yeah, like you’re going into heaven,” says one.

Delaney Martin is pleased with the results.

“I have to say, this house has blown my mind with its elegance and how it’s come together and the sound it makes. So right now we are in the midst of building all these houses, and in 2015 we are going to be taking them around the city to various neighborhoods for what we’re calling the roving village residency. So you might have a musical village end up on the end of your street one day next year. Really, so much of Airlift is shining a great big spotlight on the amazing culture of New Orleans, and doing it in ways that bring people together.”

Written by Eve Abrams for the Community IMPACT Series and produced by WWNO in partnership with the Greater New Orleans Foundation. To learn more about New Orleans Airlift, click here.