Swinging to the music

| 20 Jun 2016 | 06:14

Who didn’t love the interactive step piano at FAO Schwarz? What about banging on a Hasbro drum set as a kid?

For the adult missing that certain childlike musical glee, and for kids too, “The Swings: An Exercise in Musical Cooperation” recaptures the sentiment. It did for Suzanne, in town from Dallas, dropping by the Battery Park City installation last week. “We were swinging all together, and in time,” she said of herself and her young grandchildren. “It was like going back to my childhood!”

Designed by the Montreal-based design studio Daily tous les jours, and spearheaded by the studio’s co-founder, Melissa Mongiat, the installation is composed of 10 pastel colored swings, each producing the sound of a piano, a harp, a guitar or a xylophone.

When used at the same time, the swings develop melodies. On a recent afternoon, though, the swingers were, well, more prone to soloing.

“I think they’re all just working on themselves,” said Luciana Bergonzi, 19, who was among those in line to get a turn. Also on line were mothers with young children, a group of 20-something friends and a woman in her 50s.

“I’ve never seen this before,” Bergonzi said. “It’s unique.”

Daily tous les jours’ original Swings installation is made up of 21 swings and has been ridden millions of times in the arts and entertainment district of Montreal. This smaller version is on tour. It will be at Battery Park until July 7 before heading to San Jose, Calif.

The installation tracks how well those who used it actually worked together to make a cohesive piece of music. At the end of the countrywide tour, The Swings will give its verdict as to which section of the country worked together most effectively, or least effectively.

“The point of our projects are meant to have people engaged, that’s what excites us,” Mongiat said of Daily tous les jours’ art.

Debra Simon, artistic director at Arts Brookfield, which is helping to support The Swings’ tour, called the installation an antidote to our increasingly plugged-in universe.

“Today’s digitized world often feels overly connected — so connected via social media and the web that we have lost the need for human interaction,” she said. “The Swings reawaken that sense of community. An organic conversation arises when one participates in The Swings — whether spoken or musical — through the peaceful practice of an age old pastime.”

When creating their piece, Mongiat and her co-founder, Mouna Andraos, were influenced both by an orchestra and by a biology lab located near their studio. “We worked with five professors that study animal cooperators,” Mongiat said. “We worked on this system to bring people to work together.”

And she thinks the downtown installation is ripe for collaboration.

“It can bring people together and also bring people closer to their environment. It can get people together in a non-tense context,” she said. “In New York, you’re by the river. You can see the Statue of Liberty, the skyscrapers. It’s a different environment you’re connected to. Connection is so important in an area with such a heavy history.”