Regardless of their musical skills, anyone can turn into a happy kid immediately walking through the doors of Bengaluru’s The Indian Music Experience (IME). At The Sound Garden is a is a series of ten life-sized playable music sculptures – from humming stones, to a table xylophone and flower gongs – offering visitors a chance to explore the science of sound. Evidently, the mammoth four-storey structure is designed to give visitors an immersive experience of Indian music – from the accessible Contemporary Expressions gallery where people can listen to compositions from the 1990s and early 2000s rock, pop, and veteran World Music icons like Shakti.
The galleries continue with the History of Music starting from the sounds of nature, ritual chanting, and devotional Bhakti music to the two major pantheons of Carnatic and Hindustani Music. This is followed by Songs of the People, Colonial Influences and a visually stunning Instruments gallery featuring a two-floor vertical wall display of over 100 wind, string, and percussion instruments. There is also an entire space dedicated to Bollywood music and its importance. You end with the history of music production and music technology right from the phonograph and gramophone era to radios and MP3. The final stop is the Legends Gallery boasting a display of invaluable musical artefacts (instruments and other memorabilia) from seven Bharat Ratna awardees – Bismillah Khan, Ravi Shankar, M.S. Subbulakshmi, Bhimsen Joshi, C. Ashwath and Zakir Hussain.
At IME, attendees are treated to hi-tech multimedia exhibit galleries, the aforementioned Sound Garden, a learning centre for music education, and several performance spaces under one roof. Their work spans exhibitions, public programs, conservation, audience development, education, and community outreach.
Here, technology has been used as a means and tool to make different aspects of music and music history accessible to all audiences. The introductory video called ‘Nadam’, translating to sound, is an immersive audio video installation chronicling the origin of sound and music in nature. Another AV installation is the ‘Samay Chakra’ that depicts prescriptions in the Hindustani tradition prescribing appropriate times of the day and seasons for the performance of each raag. “We have also gamified certain aspects of music so visitors can play around mixing different tracks of instruments in the World Music section, record themselves singing popular songs in a studio setting and learn while playing about Shruti, Raga and Taal that form the basis of all Indian music,” says Preema John, Museum Director, IME. “There are also several listening stations where visitors can hear recordings and see concerts of artists that have been shown in the galleries. We are also now exploring possibilities of using VR technology to give visitors new more immersive musical experiences at the museum, specially of historic concerts and music festivals.”
Partnering for Success
As a cultural institution, partnerships form an integral part of their programmes and activities. A recent one is the collaboration with RhythmXChange Project and the Manchester Museum with support from the British Council. The initiative sees four musician mentors and mentees from India and the UK working together over six months to co-create music with a shared cultural legacy and heritage. “This project was a youth-led initiative that was focused on giving autonomy to and expanding the local and global networks of young musicians from Bengaluru and Manchester through a mentorship programme that also gave them opportunities to perform and present their music in the two partner cities. During the festival we also hosted a multilingual Rap Battle (a first at IME) for young rappers based in Bengaluru, and the winning crew was awarded six hours of studio time with a music producer to record a track, as well as half a day of mentoring with Kannada Rapper, Gubbi,” says John.
In the coming year there are many exciting new initiatives and projects being undertaken at IME. One is the Museum Bus project, which is currently under development, and through which the team hope to take this museum on wheels to different parts of Karnataka, specially to children in interior rural areas who would not normally have access to a music museum experience like this.
Another is the ‘Museum App’ which is also under development, this will give visitors to access some of our gallery showcases before they visit and help them plan their visit better. “The App will include different theme-based tours, apart from a general museum walkthrough, navigational tools, and more detailed information on exhibits at the museum. We are also working towards setting up a Tribal Music gallery; we have a Songs of the People gallery focused on Folk Music but not on Tribal music. Tribal communities form about 10% of India’s population and we felt it was very important to have this community represented at the Museum,” says John.
As in all fields, the music industry is also seeing a major shift towards the digital, accessing an audience or marketing your work these days has become a far more democratised process. “Musicians including classical artists are using social media for work. But this also means there’s a lot more pressure on artists to promote themselves. Some of the good things that have come about with the move towards technology is an increase in the number of online classes which we also provide at IME. This allows students to access teachers from different parts of the country and the world. There’s also an increased amount of technology being used as training tools whether it be electronic Shruti boxes, tanpuras or other more recent music apps to learn music. We are hoping to very much be part of these conversations about the use of technology and its impact on music learning and music production through our public programmes and projects,” signs off John.