We can look at the history of music through a variety of lenses – famous composers (Bach, Beethoven, the Beatles), masterworks (Handel’s “Messiah,” Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”), and historical events and cultural shifts (the return to folk music during the Vietnam era, gangsta rap coming from violent corners of urban America).
In a new exhibit at Union Station in Kansas City, the lens for viewing the popular music of the last hundred years is technology. The Science of Rock and Roll exhibit starts by walking you through the beginning days of recorded music, from electric guitars and turntables, CDs and DJs, to iPods and YouTube. At each step, you see how the technology changed the music business and the music produced by popular artists. You’ll also get to hear plenty of great music and interviews with the musicians themselves.
Perhaps the best parts of the exhibit, though, are all of the interactive music stations. These give you the opportunity to learn how different elements of music fit together and how different instruments work. You can take a turn playing electric guitar, keyboard, and drums. You can get in a sound booth and record yourself singing. You can experiment with a mixing board or a reactive table. Even better, you can keep the recordings you make at each of these stations, by scanning the QR code on the back of your “backstage pass” and sending the recording to an email address.
This exhibit provides a unique opportunity to hear AND play great music. The displays are visually appealing and informative, and there were many more things to read and hear than we had time for on our visit. Everything was beautifully handicap accessible, including the interactive stations. In all, this was a fabulous hands-on experience of rock and roll and the technology that shaped it.
Visiting the Science of Rock and Roll would be a perfect outing for senior groups and for families.
This exhibit is also a great way to spark some intergenerational conversations, as visitors remember when various technologies were in use, or when particular bands became popular.
The Science of Rock and Roll is a traveling exhibition, making its debut here in Kansas City. You can visit the exhibit at Union Station through May. Find out more about tickets and schedules on the Union Station website.
Here’s your surprise:
Now, in the interest of authenticity and courage in sharing one’s voice with the world, I invite you to check out what I recorded in the sound booth. Please remember that a.) I don’t sound like Marvin Gaye and b.) I was hamming up for my two-year-old (who really wasn’t try to escape the recording booth, I swear!)
Have you visited The Science of Rock and Roll? If so, leave a comment and let me know what you thought!