Fast Standing Still for the Airstream Building in Chicago

The classic Airstream trailer looks fast, even when it’s standing still. Architect Edward Noonan amplified this effect when he installed an Airstream trailer on the roof of the building at 1807 W. Sunnyside Ave., because he “didn’t want to haul an Airstream across the country to go do things.” (It’s officially named the Gentle Annie Stafford Pavilion and Conference Center.)

Only visible to passing trains, this stationary trailer embodies Noonan’s statement: you don’t have to go in order to do. To people sitting idly on the passing trains, they feel like the stationary ones, with the world—and the Airstream— slipping past them.

This piece gives florid flurries and jazzy lines to low instruments to reflect the juxtaposition of smooth lines and heavy materials in the Airstream. The electronic sounds are derived from audiovisual source recordings from the site. All sounds you hear are “carved” from the source recordings of trains passing the building, and melodic and harmonic contours are shaped by video material taken from the trains as they pass the trailer.

The culminating quirky jazzy tune is a transcription of the safety message heard on one of the trains. Its text harkens back to Noonan’s impulse to do something out of the ordinary, his stories of how it confused people and frustrated authorities, and ultimately allowed him to take the trailer where he really wanted to go. The message encourages you to “[be] observant of your surroundings” and “report any suspicious behavior or items,” with the key slogan, “If you see something, say something.” While on the surface it raises suspicion of anything nonconformist, you could also take as encouragement to watch for the quirks of life like the Airstream as you pass by, maybe go inside and follow where you mind wants to go, see what you see in your mind’s eye, and share it with the world.

Reference:
Kelly Kennedy, “An Airstream on a Roof?” Chicago Tribune, August 27, 2005, updated August 30, 2005, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2005-08-27/news/0508270054_1_airstream-roof-train

 

The melody was taken from the recorded safety message played on the passing train: Continue reading

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The Fresh Minds Festival is a public performance of audiovisual artworks by professional artists, student-curated under the direction of a multi-disciplinary team of faculty. Continue reading

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