February 05, 2016
Don’t expect to see a lot of “DO NOT TOUCH” signs and dusty artifacts behind glass when you visit Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre. This ain’t your grandpa’s music museum and it was never meant to be.
NMC believes that the story of music in Canada is much larger than that which can be told in just a single curatorial voice. As the home for music in Canada, Studio Bell was designed to reflect the philosophy of music as a democratic and organic form of human expression. Because it is always evolving, the story of our shared musical heritage needs to be told in many voices that come from many places.
“It was important for us to respect the diversity of Canadian music,” explains Adam Fox, NMC’s Director of Programs, “to respect its diversity relating to culture, to genre, to geography.”
That meant opening up lines of communication, bringing in music makers, music writers and music lovers from across the country to get their perspectives on the stories that need to be told: Stories of movers and shakers, trailblazers and Hall of Famers. Stories of soundscapes and landmarks and all the places where music lives.
And the stories are just the beginning.
Designed to be more like a music festival, where you can’t help but follow your ears from one amazing sound to the next, Studio Bell’s five floors of exhibitions and collections will flood your senses and fire your emotions. Twenty-two exhibition stages invite you to discover, experience and celebrate music, and to contribute your own personal touch to the musical landscape.
You’ll hear music, of course, great Canadian songs from every era and every genre. You’ll learn the stories behind the songs and celebrate the Canadian artists who made the world their stage.
You’ll make music, too. Through digitally-interactive exhibition stages, you can jam with the greats, try on a different voice or make the walls sing just by moving around.
You’ll get up close and personal with NMC’s historic living collection of musical instruments and sound equipment, including the thunderous Kimball Theatre Organ and the legendary Rolling Stones Mobile Recording Studio.
NMC’s interactive exhibition stages are built to feel like the pages of a really great music magazine. Eye-catching, thought-provoking and ever-changing, they offer the visitor a dynamic journey of exploration. From playful sensor-activated interactive areas to immersive film-based settings, from introspective soul-soothing listening places to lively hands-on maker spaces, you will plunged into a new experience with each flip of the page.
“Building our exhibition stages to resemble the pages of a magazine allows us to express our diverse content, not in a static or staid way, but in a way that is more playful, more open, and ever-evolving,” says Fox. “Magazines can be bold and splashy; they can showcase a high-style photo-spread; they can provide a long-form editorial to really dig into a topic in a more focussed and concerted way; they can offer shorter opinion pieces. The magazine approach gives us the freedom to play with the exhibition stages, to experiment with form and content.”
Expect to be surprised, delighted, stirred and amazed as you move through the pages of Studio Bell. It’s perfectly okay to get more than a little choked up when you immerse yourself in a highly evocative exhibition stage like BMO Soundscapes. Flip the page over to the Body and Brain exhibition afterwards and you can explore the science of our emotions on music, to understand just why it is that you felt that surge of pride.
Pride is a big part of Studio Bell. Pride in our musical legacy, pride in the diverse musicians who have given Canada such a vast and rich musical landscape, pride in the indelible mark that those artists have left upon the stages of this country and the world. As home to three Canadian music Halls of Fame, Studio Bell gives music in Canada a home at last.
About the Author
An ink-stained scribe who gets lost in shapes, shadows and fancy words, Barbara is a freelance writer and NMC regular who left behind the world of neuroscience (but not entirely) to hang out in the arts community. She thinks a childhood spent daydreaming and roaming the wilds of Winnipeg might have been good training for life after all.