(GIF by Tyler Woods)
There is something about being on top of the water, surrounded by plants and music to remind you that New York is actually a place on land on the Earth and not a mindset or abstraction.
That was the case Wednesday night, as classical music ensemble the Warp Trio played violin and piano on Swale, New York’s floating food forest, currently docked on Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park. The ensemble played Ernest Bloch, an improvisation on water, and “Estrellita (My Little Star)” by Manuel Ponce, in an event organized by the online performance platform Groupmuse.
The location was Swale, a farm located on a barge in the East River. It’s both an art piece and a urbanist project, spearheaded by the artist Mary Mattingly. Visitors to Swale are able to explore the forest of edible, perennial plants. The idea is to create a hugely collaborative project that brings together different communities working toward the same goal, and to provide a sort of minimum viable product for how to conceive of a greater system of locally grown food in big cities.
Swale won our Brooklyn Innovation Award last year as the best artist/creative group in the borough working in the innovation space.
“We’re interested in hosting and being a platform for communities that gather and care about each other,” Marisa Prefer, Swale’s education manager, explained. “Groupmuse found us and we were happy to host.”
Groupmuse is a fairly new platform for hosting classical music concerts in small venues like living rooms or other small, nontraditional spaces. We covered Groupmuse, cofounded by a 27-year-old chamber music lover living in Bushwick, late last year.
“Once in a while we decide to do one in public places, but in keeping with the same ethos, which is informal and intimate,” Groupmuse’s cofounder Sam Bodkin explained.
As the sun set behind the statue of liberty Wednesday night and the air cooled, the 50 or so attendees on the barge nestled into the wood chips on the ground, steadied themselves on the edges of the barge, and leaned up against the apple trees on Swale.
“It’s a great way to meet new people,” explained Dennis Lin, one of those sitting on the wall of the barge. Lin is also a Groupmuse performer. He’s played living room concerts around Brooklyn and the city. “It’s being able to perform in a nontraditional way and knowing you’re introducing people to classical music who aren’t used to classical music.”
At the end of the evening, after the lights had come on in the Manhattan skyline, one of the Groupmuse organizers asked each member of the audience to shake the hand of someone near them and say one word about how they were feeling.
“Nice,” the person next to me, Elyse, said. Then the audience disembarked from the barge, walking up a metal gangplank, and went their separate ways into the Brooklyn night.