Sound Histories

An evening of live music from the Royal Northern College of Music at the British Museum, Sound Histories was the largest yet in the RNCM’s series of site-specific installations created to animate iconic public spaces with music.

Having previously collaborated with IWM North, Manchester Piccadilly Station and Victoria Baths, Sound Histories saw us working in London for the first time, our stimulus and partner being the British Museum, home to the most visited collection in the UK.

200 musicians were involved, together performing over 120 pieces, with music for strings, winds, chorus, guitars, harps and saxophones, including solos, duos, chamber music and ensemble pieces that span the last six centuries.

Please also see the document ‘For the first time I felt that it was MY museum: an evaluation of the audience for the British Museum events programme‘.

Feedback on the Sound Histories event’s impact on the audiences included the following quotes, in response to the question ‘What did you like best about your experience of attending?:

‘I was able to be close to the musicians in a way that broke down the barrier between performer and audience and greatly improved the overall experience.’

‘The opportunity to support young musicians experience performing in a very different performance venue. The music – compositions, solo and group performances, instruments – reflected the artifacts and their historical contexts in an unusual, stimulating and very enjoyable way. I know that future visits to a room /artifact will be enhanced if I remember having heard a musical performance.’

‘The music was themed to match the exhibits. Often the pieces were quite challenging but the musicians either made you reflect on the connections drew attention to the place and the objects displayed.’

‘It was beautifully done. The music matched the scenery and it moved us all. The way the music was chosen, such as the instruments and also the places selected to withhold it showed how well thought it was. And it also showed that people that took the time to have the idea and put it into action are very passionate about art in all its forms.’

‘A glimpse into a composer’s feelings for a piece of art from antiquity. The sound of musical instruments in the great hall of antiquity was a wonderful moment for conjuring up all sorts of wild imaginings of many different colours.’

‘I loved the classical music in particular. I also really enjoyed seeing the mix of art and music e.g. I saw three musicians playing in front of three statues. The mixing of genres is good in my opinion and should happen more often! Classical music is often limited to the concert hall and I support it appearing elsewhere.’

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