The Music Box: A Shanty Sound Laboratory

Published on: February 7th, 2013

Photo Credit: Tod Seelie

Once upon a time, a group of ramshackle houses made up the landscape in an almost adult make-believe village known as The Music Box: A Shanty Sound Laboratory, an experiment in design and musical architecture. The first phase of the Music Box closed almost a year ago, making way for what will be a bigger and more permanent structure within the New Orleans community. Looking back on the Music Box project, I fondly remember it being referred to as Never, Never Land, a place where adults go to stop growing up and are allowed to once again be children. The ramshackle houses were structures that look more like pirate ships and jungle gyms, with knobs, buttons, pulleys, stairs, and floorboards that squeak and sing. It was an inviting space for ‘children’ of all ages nestled within the New Orleans historic Bywater neighborhood.

From the brain of  New Orleans Airlift Co-Director Delaney Martin and street artist SWOON, looking at the derelict and wanting to transform it into something meaningful for the community materialized the idea of ‘shanties.’ The ‘shanties’ were created from remnants of a blighted Creole cottage with roots dating back to 1790. Using only appropriated wood, taken from the 18th-century cottage that once occupied the lot on which these structures would rest for the next year and a half, local, national, and international artists—designers merged with musicians—constructed the structures, adding their own brand of whimsy throughout this collaborative process. The culmination of these creations were delivered in the form of three concerts conducted by New Orleans musician, inventor, and sound engineer Quintron, who is most noted for his invention of the ‘Drum Buddy’. Clips and photos from the performances can be seen below.

Stay tuned for phase two – Dithyrambalina: A Musical House for New Orleans.

Video provided by New Orleans Airlift.

Program Contact

Caroline Dionne, Program Director

Program Update

Parsons is not currently admitting new students to this master’s degree program. Parsons is now offering a Graduate Minor in Design Studies that is designed to complement the MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies and other graduate programs across the university in design, liberal arts, and social research.