On Sept. 25, the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live was one of the 1,300 venues that opened its doors to the public free of charge, as part of Smithsonian magazine’s sixth-annual Museum Day.
“There are over 50 actual music museums in existence,” said Tracy Strann, the planner of Museum Day at the Grammy Museum and the mueseum’s director of external affairs. “But here in Los Angeles it is certainly very new.”
Just less than two years old, the 30,000-square-foot music museum hosts four floors of temporary and permanent exhibits, along with entertaining and educational interactive stations. The Grammy Museum is filled with exhibits that portray not only the personal impact songs and songwriters have on their audience, but also the deep social and cultural influence of music.
“[The museum] is very deep in content,” Strann said. “Honestly, I’ve been here with the museum long before we opened and I still haven’t done everything.”
From visual showcases such as the messy and jumbled handwritten lyrics of the song “Stan” by Eminem, to the paintings and sketches done by Janis Joplin, and even Elvis Presley’s D-18 Martin Guitar, there is certainly something here for every generation and every taste.
One of the most interesting and interactive pieces that Strann said she is particularly fond of involves the eight pods on the third floor that are part of the “In the Studio” exhibit.
Each pod offers a different step in the process of recording songs, such as picking different beats and samples to add to the mix. Through a touch screen and film footage of prominent artists, engineers and producers, these mini-studios allows visitors to experience firsthand all the work that goes into making their favorite songs.
The third floor houses the Red Carpet Showcase of Grammy outfits, an exhibit of particular interest for fashion lovers who watch the Grammy Awards every year just to see what the stars are wearing.
Featured outfits include the light-up suit Kanye West wore in his 2008 performance of “Stronger” with Daft Punk and the infamous Versace gown worn by Jennifer Lopez in 2000. Another recent acquirement is Taylor Swift’s sparkling blue Kaufman Franco gown worn to this year’s Grammy Awards ceremony.
On the fourth floor, the museum hosts an exhibit called “Songs of Conscience, Sounds of Freedom,” which explores the power and affect songs and artists have had on the history of the United States. The exhibit includes a timeline of music that go back as far as the American Revolution, where songs such as “Yankee Doodle” were a part of the politics and culture of the country.
“Crossroads,” also on the fourth floor, is another popular station where a colorful and interactive display of different musical genres is projected onto a long table. It has something for everyone, letting the museumgoer search through and explore approximately 160 genres of music, from disco to goth to Native American tribal songs to boogie woogie. With hours worth of foot-tapping material, “Crossroads” is a definite reason to visit to the Grammy Museum.
The Grammy Museum is currently working on creating a new interactive station donated by the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The exhibit is set to open on Oct. 18 and so far it consists of headphones, a synthesizer and a computer screen.
“They will be hosted virtually by some very prominent songwriters,” Strann said. “You will be able to … go in and hear what they’ve written but then you get to finish the song.”
Letting the museumgoer learn and experience the songwriting process seems to be the key component of what the Grammy Museum is all about.
Along with celebration of the sixth-annual Museum Day, the Grammy Museum held a special screening of Electrified: The Guitar Revolution in the plush-seated Clive Davis Theater. The Smithsonian film explored the history of the popular instrument, starting with the unlikely beginning of the “Frying Pan” guitar, which was made of steel and held on the player’s lap, a tool that eventually lead to the creation of the modern electric guitar.
Strann said the Grammy Museum is constantly staying involved with its community through events like Museum Day.
“[By being a part of Museum Day] I’m able to give people who normally might not be able to afford to come the opportunity to come,” Strann said. “And for me, that’s very important.”