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The Music Box Village
Profound sounds from ordinary scenes
Finding The Music Box village was slightly outside of my proverbial box, but upon entering there’s an immediate magic in the herbally enriched air, an energy that’s almost tangible.
Saying that the village incorporates natural elements and respects the placement of the topography of the location would be an understatement – the ticket box, for instance, is built around a tall and slender young tree. Immediately you get the sense of the use of natural elements, almost in a state of decay; objects that one typically thinks of as debris are used in a newly formed manner.
This invites deterioration in a way that New Orleanians revere and are familiar with; maybe because we have to be, but also because it’s the product of the environment in which we live. Our tepid, dank air seems to strangle every element it touches, causing boards to creak, tin to rust and wood to rot. At The Music Box Village they see this as an opportunity; they’re inspired by the unique architectural elements of New Orleans and they quite literally see the music in them.
At the village, they claim that, “The project pushes artistic boundaries, but more importantly it brings together people of all stripes for a heartwarming, creative experience that has equal appeal for a musical giant such as Thurston Moore or a gaggle of 5-year-olds.” When speaking with Jay Pennington, one of the founders of the project, he explains the concept as creating instrumental houses that embody the sounds of your home by using ruins of old homes such as reclaimed wood and rusty tin.
The village began as a nomadic project; the installations were intentionally movable so each of the tiny houses could be broken down and put back together with ease. In 2016, The Music Box Village found its permanent home, and with this came the opportunity to make it even more dynamic.
The village, which welcomes children as long as they’re accompanied by adults, allows adults to “get just as weird as the kids,” says Pennington. On Thursdays during the school year they provide regular educational programming, and children can come and make their own music. My personal favorite of the houses is the “Chateau Poulet,” where you pull and hold ropes to unleash sonic fans. The results are hissing, high pitched tones that can easily be manipulated to make a rhythmic tune. Another favorite is “The Shake House,” which claps together old, squeaking floorboards.
Being inside these houses immediately catapulted me into my childhood and cauterized my deep love and heritage for the homes we all know and love so deeply. Everyone knows that the sound of a whirring fan, especially in the depths of the humid haze of August, is a profound survival tool. And we memorize the location and sound of the swelling and shrinking boards beneath our feet so we might reliably step on or avoid them if, for instance, trying to sneak away from a sleeping baby.
Pennington and his team have taken these everyday elements and placed our imaginations in them. When coupled with profound professional musicians, the result is vibrant and new. Over time, The Music Box Village will become a landmark cultural center for New Orleans children to use as another venue to embrace and explore music in a less conventional way.
In my opinion, the most profound effort of this project is that it appeals to child and parent alike to think of music in newfound ways, and reminds us that music isn’t limited to speakers – it’s everywhere. Through the noise you can always hear the music – if you step outside of your box.
Just the Facts:
4557 N. Rampart St.
“Find us in the grove of trees where Rampart Street ends, at the levee in the Bywater neighborhood.
Hours are subject to change and based on a month-to-month basis; check website.
Online tickets are Will Call; there are no paper or e-tickets issued. Check in at the Will Call window on arrival, or print your confirmation email and show it with your ID at the back entry gate. Online ticketing closes at midnight, the night before each show.
Admission: $12; local admission and kids 5-18: $5; Free for kids 5 & under.
Beverages: Their bar offers coffee, soft drinks, water and more.
Private Event Rentals are offered
Disclaimer: “The Music Box Village is a one-of-a-kind, artist-built sculpture garden. We require children under 16 to be accompanied by an adult at all times, with a minimum of one adult per three children due to safety concerns. … While we welcome exploration and play, children must be supervised at all times due to the delicate nature of our instruments. The Music Box Village isn’t intended as a playground. Entry is at your own risk.”