The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Museum Music

I don't know about you guys, but I really enjoy music in the museum. I'm not talking about the chest-thumping bas that reverberates worryingly through the V&A on its late nights. I'm referring to the use of music in exhibition galleries. I'm not going to say that it brings the period to life for me, as I tend to think that gesamtkunstwerk in the museum is little more than a misleading theatrical illusion, but I do like how the use of piped sound breaks down the usual hushed funereal silence and reverent atmosphere museums often have.

Of course, it can be done badly. I recall with shudders of distaste the tacky use of the Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian" in the entrance of the King Tut exhibit at LACMA in 2005. More recently, the Metropolitan Museum of Art showed its ignorance when it misinterpreted the Canadian band The Guess Who's vitriolic "American Woman" as a paean to American female pulchritude in its "American Woman" show; I doubt that this was a subtle use of anti-establishment irony, and more a case of the curator not having listened to the lyrics.

Still, I loved the use of Jazz Age music throughout the V&A's Art Deco show, and the compilation "soundtrack" is still one of my favourites to listen to. In fact, I have quite the collection of 1920s/30s music thanks to a string of Deco-related exhibitions held around that time. I also have French museums to thank for my many compilations of early/medieval/Renaissance music, which have introduced me to new genres, composers, and artists, not to mention providing me with a rather wonderful ambient soundscape.

So, as a tip to my fellow museum music lovers out there, I bring you a link I have just discovered: MuseumMusic, which appears to be the distributor for CDs commissioned by New York museums. I have the fashion one, of course, but if anyone wants to get me "Music to Spy By," I will squeal with glee. Just throwing it out there... Christmas is only a few months away!


Jenny said...

Used well, a soundscape is great. All the senses come together in the museum, and the power of the ear in moulding the experience should not be underestimated.

Quite like the look of the Surrealist one meself, wouldn't you know?

Amy said...

I looked on eMusic to see if they have 'Music to Spy By'. They don't, but they do have this: