What Is Colin McIntyre Building In That Shipping Container?
So it’s a sort of … lung? And it’s … resonant?
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
3:45PM, Tue. Feb. 28, 2017
It’s been almost a year since the opening of Dimension Gallery, the city’s only venue dedicated exclusively to exhibiting and promoting contemporary sculpture and three-dimensional art, and now there’s this … this giant lung that’s getting ready to exhale nearby.
Note: It’s not literally a lung, no. It’s a pipe organ. A seven-octave pipe organ. An antique seven-octave pipe organ, rescued from a state of material decrepitude, now newly rebuilt and installed inside a climate-controlled shipping container by Dimension’s co-founder Colin McIntyre.
“The organ came out of a church in Detroit,” says the sculptor. “It went into disuse in the Eighties and much of the instrument was lost over the years before it came to me. It was originally built in the mid-1930s by a company that’s one of the few remaining American manufacturers of pipe organs: Wicks Organ Company. I’ve rebuilt wind chests for it and implemented the electronic controls for modern interface – been working with a well-known acoustician and the premiere provider of electronic pipe organ controls in the country – but everything else is original equipment. And I’ll be adding more ranks as I find them.”
This isn’t a totally unexpected project, coming from the man who previously transported and rebuilt warped sections of flooring from an ancient industrial warehouse in Dowagiac, Michigan, to bring Austin that Shrine of Inevitable Forces.
But this reborn instrument, this is inside a shipping container? Which immense object didn’t just fall from the sky all ex nihilo and land perfectly in Dimension’s parking lot, right?
“I needed a special acoustical chamber to enhance the organ’s sound quality,” says McIntyre. “To support the low-frequency pipes with their long wavelengths, I needed to design and build a custom interior. So Moya [McIntyre, the artist’s wife and Dimension co-founder] and I bought a container from a dealer in Houston and had it shipped here. I’ve been framing for the last few weeks and we’re adding insulation and wood paneling this week, and installing an AC system in the back wall.”
This Resonant Lung, as McIntyre’s christened the installation, will be the foundation of a series of composer residencies – the first of which happens this Saturday and features original compositions and performances by Ricardo Donoso, a percussionist and electronic musician from Rio de Janeiro, who currently resides in Boston.
Note: Donoso’s released music on esteemed labels such as Denovali, Digitalis, Further Records, and Hospital Productions, in addition to having scored Greg Barker’s recent HBO documentary, Homegrown: The Counter-Terror Dilemma. Among – as is usual for these relentless and talented creative types, right? – other impressive projects.
But even before Saturday’s full concert, there’s a preview going on. This Friday night there’s an opening reception to reveal the Resonant Lung in all its structural and sonic glory, and that event offers Lung-activating music composed by Donoso and … Colin McIntyre?
“I don’t think of myself as a musician, per se,” says the sculptor, a smile invoked by modesty forming within his dark beard. “My interest lies in the impact of sound with or without musical structure. But I’ve always worked on experimental music in the background of my visual-art career, and now I’m bringing it toward the front for the first time in a long time.”
So, the Resonant Lung now, ladies and gentlemen.
Reckon we know where we’ll be this weekend.