Thursday, November 25, 2010


“I have seen the David
I’ve seen the Mona Lisa too
I have heard Doc Watson
Play Columbus Stockade Blues”

Music takes one back to many places from their past. Add tunes to an exhibit and the era and tone is set. Does anyone here today recall a CBC story on the music of contact? Colonial settlers and First Nations songs together as they were from about the time of that early history. Can you hear the fiddle and the drum together? Or have you ever attended a veterans' dance and watched that elder generation move across the floor, regardless of their age, their sails filled with the wind as they glide upon a hardwood sea?

All of us travel back with music. Good or bad tunes transport our innermost memories to an event, a place, time or to someone. I have played music for most of my life, recorder or “pre-clarinet” training, clarinet and then the guitar. The best way for myself to learn how to play guitar was to write my own tunes, some of them dreadful and maybe even a few that, with enough coaxing and the right "tone", you just might get them out of me again. After so many years, all these tunes reflect upon times and memories of my past.

All the music I listened to, whether my parent’s old records, or my own, runs the spectrum of genres, folk, classical, musicals, soundtracks, big band, rock, heavy metal, punk and country. Even the instruments remind us of memories, the Silvertone guitar bought second hand, the old Epiphone with the broken but repaired neck and the hollow body imitation of an ES-335 because your guitar god played one. Objects equally transport the listener or viewer, but the two together, the item with its familiar – sound and experience- is powerfully reflective.

For museums, the lack of a soundtrack in its galleries is a missed opportunity. Making use of any of the senses provides us with a holistic experience as exhibits are more than panels, things and cases. Can you hear in your museum the sound of the hammer upon the anvil or recall the smell of apple and cinnamon in the kitchen? Where does it take you? Who do you want to share your story with? If part of our work, in museums, allows the visitor to reminisce upon their own experiences, then we have succeeded in reconnecting them to an event, a place, time or to someone - their history.

The lines at the beginning, from the Guy Clark tune Dublin Blues, is a record of one man’s experience. What does he think of when he sings these lines? The song is a record of emotion unhealed by beauty or legend. Mixing experiences, choosing themes that link objects directly to human feelings, will always create connections to audiences, teaching us that memory is influenced, and associated with opportunities to respond, whether these experiences reflect upon happy or sad aspects of life.

Remember the LP record? Here Frosty the Snowman, a tradition at Christmas, takes many people back to familiar places of memory.

Guy Clark's Dublin Blues

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