Say what you will about Doug Aitken’s monumental “Song 1” at the Hirshhorn—some critics have called the outdoor installation an overgrown music video—but it’s hard to knock the song itself. “I Only Have Eyes for You,” penned by the songwriting pair of Harry Warren and Al Dubin, is a perfect pop composition: so simple you commit it to memory instantly, its melodic lilt surprising enough to justify its stickiness. Most of the versions you hear in “Song 1” are at 60 BPM, and have a gauzy, haunting cast appropriate to the lyrical reverie (“Are the stars out tonight?/I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright”). But my favorite moments in the looped, 35-minute work are the weird, interstitial ones, like a twinkly, Kraftwerk-like instrumental segue by Lucky Dragons and a liberating drum breakdown that sounds like it was recorded by Japan’s Boredoms. That bizarro side of “Song 1” should get its due at tonight’s “Happening,” which is co-sponsored by Pitchfork and Wired. Set to perform to the video projection are arty noise-punk duo No Age, drone evangelist Oneohtrix Point Never, restless organic-house composer Nicolas Jaar, Animal Collective’s Geologist, gospel singer Tim McAfee Lewis and singer/modern dancer Leo Gallo, and High Places, the twee-electronic outfit whose fast-paced version of “Song 1” is easily the most blissed-out I’ve heard. You won’t know if it’s cloudy or bright, indeed: Your eyes will be closed, your arms will be in the air, and your ass will be shaking.
The “Song 1: Happening” takes place 8 p.m. to midnight at the Hirshhorn Musuem and Sculpture Garden, 1 Independence Ave. SW. $25 (advance sales only). hirshhorn.si.edu. (202) 633-4674.