Listening to Lizzie Hughes’ work 2nd Empire State Building, a sound piece consisting of a series of brief phone calls in which the caller asks politely which floor the person on the other end of the line is working on, I was at first unaware of the title and date of the work.
It took me until the 11th floor to work out that the calls were in sequence, and after that it became vividly engaging, as I waited for each floor, wondering how far up the building we could go. The answer would come, similar but always varied answers, all the way up to 80.
The higher we go, the more it narrows the possibilities for which building we could be listening to. The caller is British and states that she is in London, the people answering all have American accents and reveal various street names which imply the building is in New York.
In some respects the date and title of the piece become irrelevant. Whenever this was made, the mere phrase ‘New York Skyscraper’ today conjures up images of the destruction of the twin towers, ‘911’. The stark human component of a skyscraper, the human beings in the concrete and glass, the lives lived out and cut short in the attacks are brought to life, and to death.
But while listening to the work, they all live, and become real people on the end of the line. Like a vine growing up from underground all the way from us to them, the lifeline reaches impossibly high, higher than any living thing can reach up unaided above ground level. It is a marvel and a tragedy, a celebration, affirmation and memorium.
The Empire State Building stands 450m tall and consists of 102 floors, the first 80 of which are offices.
The world trade center buildings stood 530m tall and consisted of 110 floors.