Connecting Musical Objects with their Pasts
The Listening Gallery was a knowledge transfer collaboration between the Royal College of Music and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (2008-10). Stemming from research in music, art, design, and technology, the project connected objects in the V&A’s collections with music that shares their rich and distinctive pasts.
New and existing recordings of music were integrated into two V&A projects. Baroque 1620-1800: Style in the Age of Magnificence was the V&A’s Spring 2009 exhibition, which ran from April to July 2009. Medieval and Renaissance Europe is a series of eleven new galleries that re-opened after major renovation in December 2009. The collection is one of the finest in the world, and its redisplay will have a minimum lifespan of 25 years.
The music employed in the Listening Gallery – much of which was especially recorded by RCM students and staff, using instruments from the RCM Museum and manuscripts from the RCM Library – comes from precisely those years, those cities, those spectacles represented by objects in the V&A’s galleries. The music and the artefacts on display were typically commissioned by the same patrons, and to experience them reunited enhances understanding of the periods, places, and people represented.
The variety of musical styles, genres, and instruments covered across European art and culture from 1000-1800 has required the consideration and application of a wide range of musicological sources. Moreover, the input provided by performers to early music scholarship has been essential, particularly for the earliest works where hands-on music making is often the best means of addressing interpretative and notation questions.
Music recorded for the Listening Gallery can be downloaded from the V&A’s website:
Our documentary series offers a rare, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the processes, products, and impact of Listening Gallery knowledge transfer activities. Drawing on the experience of curators, performers, researchers, and recording engineers, the films provide insight into the relevance of music to objects on display at the V&A, as well as the rehearsal and recording work of RCM musicians.
Frost S & Nuti G (2012), Another dimension: integrating music with the Medieval & Renaissance Galleries, V&A Online Journal, 4 [DOI].
Nuti G, Solomon A, & Williamon A (2009), The listening gallery: integrating music with exhibitions and gallery displays, in A Williamon, S Pretty, & R Buck (eds.), Proceedings of the International Symposium on Performance Science 2009 (pp. 341-346), European Association of Conservatoires (AEC).