Sight And Sound: How Museums Use Music To Draw In New Audiences
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was arguably one of The Beatles most famous records ever made, and just recently, fans in Liverpool got to experience it as how it was originally intended.
From Dec 19 last year, to Jan 9, 2020, an exclusive experiential presentation of the iconic album was opened to the public – courtesy of the Tate Liverpool and National Museums Liverpool.
A worldwide first, Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: The Immersive Experience was a collaborative effort of the museums, the legendary band and Dolby Laboratories.
The show presented a remixed Dolby Atmos version of the pioneering album at the iconic Royal Albert Dock Liverpool. And, it was as if the band itself performed live within the event space.
The Beatles As Originally Intended
Grammy Award-winning producer Giles Martin – who is the son of legendary Beatles producer, Sir George Martin – states that the new Dolby Atmos mix allows listeners to immerse themselves in the fantastical world that was so beautifully created at Abbey Road Studios over 50 years ago.
For Beatlemaniacs, this unique presentation afforded them the ability to listen and experience the tracks in a fresh, new way.
It not only provided additional layers to the band’s music, but also helped amp up the story behind Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a ground-breaking album that was made during the height of the band’s popularity.
More importantly, the success of the event further solidified the growing popularity of immersive experiences, which make use of music and sound to peel back the layers of both art and history.
You could say that such exhibits add depth to the way fans experience the music, while at the same time open up the chance for them to discover different unique backstories to their favourite bands or acts.
A Historical Playlist
The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles is the latest to tap into immersive technology in presenting the history and significance of music within its walls. The newly opened Mono To Immersive Experience Room, provides an avenue for visitors to explore music history and relive some of their favourite Grammy performances over the years.
The flagship experience room takes visitors on an audio visual journey, exploring recorded sound from cylinder phonographs of the 19th century to surround-sound of the present. It also allows one to explore vital components of musical heritage, along with the advancement of sound and recording technology over the course of over a century.
Presenting these changes – and the journey that began with the acoustic era to the digital world that we know today – in such an engaging and interactive way opens up a new dimension to how people understand and appreciate decades of music history.
It offers a first-hand approach to learning about the significant evolutions that have taken place in the advancement of recorded sound over the years, and how those avenues have managed to progress the music industry to the levels of where it is today.
Dancing To The Music
Perhaps one of the most innovative presentations of an immersive sound experience is the one that is being orchestrated by London’s Design Museum later this year. Electronic, to be presented from April 1 to July 26, will transport visitors to nightclubs in major cities around the globe such as Detroit, Chicago Paris and Berlin.
Originally presented by the Musee De La Musique – Philharmonie De Paris in 2019, the exhibition uses a combination of sound, strobe lighting and flashing lights, which “transport” visitors to dance floors of clubs in the United States, Europe and the UK.
According to a statement by the Design Museum, Electronic intends to evoke the experience of a being in a club. It allows visitors to explore the people, art, design, technology and photography that have been capturing and shaping the electronic music landscape.
The multi-sensory experience not only delves into the electronic music genre and international club culture, but also its impact from underground movements to the mainstream.
In order to realise its vision, London’s Design Museum will feature works of techno legends, such as Jeff Mills, Ellen Allien and Jean-Michel Jarre, as well as BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop.
The exhibition will also feature some of the works surrounding rave culture captured by renowned German photographer Andreas Gursky. This is in addition to installations by artists such as Peter Saville with French DJ and producer Laurent Garnier providing the soundtrack to the exhibition.
There was a lot of enthusiasm about innovation, machines, technology and even the sound of music and the 80s was a big mix of genres,” says Detroit music legend Jeff Mills, in a video released by the Design Museum.
He adds that factors not involving music played a role in how electronic music was evolving.
“It was normal at the time to sit down with a machine and try to create something different, taking things from hip hop, new wave, industrial dance and soul and dance and mixing all of that into something new.”
Sound: An Emotional Connection
According to creative technical event production company, Hawthorn, immersive experiences are viewed as one of the ways for brands and organisations to establish and build an emotional connection.
Although virtual reality and augmented reality are still a distinct focus, the importance of sound cannot be denied in encapsulating the overall immersive experience.
As such, it isn’t surprising to see the museum sector hopping on this bandwagon – using sound as an element to further raise the interaction and engagement levels of its visitor experience.
One of the earliest and perhaps most prominent examples of this was Opera: Passion, Power And Politics, which ran from September 2017 to February 2018 at the V&A museum in London.
The landmark exhibition guided visitors on the history of opera, from its origins in late Renaissance Italy to the modern era.
The four-dimensional experience, which utilised a combination of displays, lighting, video and sound, showed how opera defined the social, political, artistic and economic conversations of key cities.
Audio was the vital element of this interactive exhibit, with headphones delivering a rousing operatic soundtrack. It created an immersive soundscape for visitors as they moved from one historic moment to the next during the exhibition.
As the advancement of sound and audio reach new creative heights at museums around the world, the experience of reliving history will no longer just be a static experience.
This is of huge significance as museums continue to embrace the digital-age – tantalising all five senses and providing visitors an insightful, as well as engaging, way to appreciate and learn about art and history.
All through the wonderful world of sound and music – of course.
Cover Image: Adrina
Writer | Richard Augustin
Two decades in journalism but Richard believes he has barely scraped the surface in the field. He loves the scent of a good story and the art of storytelling, two elements that constantly fuel his passion for writing.