Rockheim is the Norwegian national museum for popular music, which alone is already very singular: despite the growing trend towards celebrating and exhibiting popular music in museums, few are the countries which are given a national museum specifically to take care of and address the country’s popular music. The idea for the museum emerged during a conference in 1998 focusing on the discussion of musical and sound archives, during which the delegates recognised the need to preserve Norwegian popular music as heritage. There then followed a long development process until the museum’s opening in Trondheim in 2010.
What does it mean to be immersive?
Although I have consistently maintained that there is no established and tested practice of exhibiting popular music in museums, I believe the time has come to renew this discourse, at least with regard to Western museum practice, where, indeed, popular music exhibitions have become increasingly common. While in the beginning these were displayed at some marginal or smaller culture institutions, nowadays they are flourishing in acknowledged and institutional museums, particularly in the form of tribute narratives. An example of this practice is the exhibition I saw in Paris, The Velvet Underground, New York Extravaganza, on display at the Philharmonie until 26th August 2016.
Are we being driven by technology? A new lens for focusing on sound technologies
My visit to the exhibition Making Music Modern: Design for Ear and Eye at MoMA has awakened my longstanding urge to write a post on the discussion regarding the extent to which technology controls society. In fact, although I found that the exhibition had adopted an original approach regarding music, in that it addressed the role of technology and design in its development, it also treated the role of technology as self-evidently decisive, rather than revealing technology as a result of social and cultural forces and needs.
The Making Music Modern exhibition was held at MoMA from November 2014 to January 2016. Spanning a period from the early 20th century to the early 21st century, it focused on the ways in which music practices in the modern era – playing, composing, listening, distributing and visualizing – have been radically transformed and shaped through design innovations and technological development ever since the appearance of the phonograph. Interestingly, the exhibition was an initiative of MoMA’s department of Architecture and Design: its curator Juliet Kinchin considers music and sound to have always been a very important dimension of design, which, unfortunately, is often not written about or exhibited in museums.