The Music Box: Artists Turn Shanties into Musical Instruments in New Orleans (Video)

The Music BoxYouTube/Video screen capture

The Music Box, which opened in October 2011 in the historic Bywater section of New Orleans, is an interactive installation of nine small, purpose-built structures made from salvaged historic materials. Each shanty-shack serves as a musical instrument created by a sound artist.

“I thought that a fun way to grapple with what we meant by musical architecture would be to make a village of small structures, and for each one to be a sound artist’s laboratory,” says Delaney Martin, co-founder of the arts organization, New Orleans Airlift, who has helped to guide the Music Box from its inception.

Many of the materials used to build the wee houses-cum-instruments came from an 18th-century Creole cottage that collapsed on the site in 2009. The instruments are ragtag concoctions that would make Rube Goldberg beam: A spiraling staircase that oozes music from organ parts saved from a Katrina-flooded church; industrial fans converted into percussive sound machines; a giant stand-up bass made of a weed-whacker and a bathtub; a weather station connected to an analog synthesizer. Anything's game, as you can see in the video below.

The Music Box is located at 1027 Piety Street, New Orleans. Spring hours are 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, visit

via Smithsonian

The Music Box: Artists Turn Shanties into Musical Instruments in New Orleans (Video)
Nine ramshackle structures have been rigged by a team of musicians, artists, and inventors to create a musical shantytown.

Related Content on