Seattle — The Experience Music Project in Seattle offers music lovers the opportunity to learn about some of the greatest rockers of all time.
I had never heard about the museum before my trip to Seattle, but the Experience Music Project (EMP) was one of the best attractions I saw.
I always have loved Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana, who are, in my mind, two of the greatest musicians, and who both hail from the Seattle area. It was amazing to see song lyrics handwritten by Hendrix and Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain on hotel letterhead, scraps of paper, guitars they once played and clothes they wore. Pictures from different stages of their all-too-short musical careers lined the walls.
My favorite piece in the museum was “The Roots and Branches Sculpture,” made of nearly 700 musical instruments, including guitars, keyboards and drums. It also consisted of 40 custom-made, computer-controlled, self-playing guitars.
“Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses” is the world’s most extensive exhibition of memorabilia celebrating the music and history of Seattle grunge luminaries, Nirvana. The exhibit features rare and unseen artifacts and photography from the band, their crews and families, the website states.
Another exhibit offered at EMP is on The Rolling Stones. In 1972 music photographer, the late Jim Marshall, was selected by LIFE magazine to cover the Rolling Stones’ tour for “Exile on Main St.,” today widely considered the band’s greatest album. “The Rolling Stones 1972 Photographs by Jim Marshall” features 37 framed prints of the legendary 1972 tour and the original album cover art by Robert Frank for “Exile on Main St.”
EMP also had “AC/DC: Australia’s Family Jewels,” an exhibit on the history of the band that included a cannon AC/DC used on stage, photographs, costumes and fan paraphernalia.
“Guitar Gallery: The Quest for Volume” included 55 vintage, world-changing guitars from the 1770s to the present. Instruments span the development of the guitar through the lives and accomplishments of innovators such as Orville Gibson, Leo Fender and Les Paul, and the musicians who played them to fame such as Bo Diddley, Dave Davies of the Kinks, Eddie Van Halen and Kurt Cobain.
The “Icons of Science Fiction” exhibit featured artifacts from sci-fi literature, film, television and art, including an Imperial Dalek from “Doctor Who,” the command chair from “Star Trek,” and Neo’s coat from “The Matrix Reloaded.”
In the “Can’t Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film” exhibit, visitors can see the script from “Night of the Living Dead,” the alien creature suit from “Alien” and Jack Torrance’s axe from “The Shining.”
When Frank O. Gehry, of California, began designing EMP, he was inspired to create a structure that evoked the rock ‘n’ roll experience. He purchased several electric guitars, sliced them into pieces and used them as building blocks for an early model design. A fusion of textures and myriad colors, EMP’s exterior conveys the energy and fluidity of music. Three-thousand panels, made up of 21,000 individually cut and shaped stainless steel and painted aluminum shingles, encase the outside of the building. Their individual finishes respond to different light conditions and appear to change when viewed from different angles, reminding audiences that music and culture is constantly evolving, the website states.
The museum provides an educational and interactive experience for all visitors, with an assisted listening system, sub-woofers installed in the floor to feel the music and an audio narration system. Multimedia installations in the Sound Lab invite hands-on interaction for visitors to explore the tools of rock ‘n’ roll through electric guitars, drums and mixing consoles. Guests can also perform on stage, complete with hot lights and virtual screaming fans.
Sitting at the heart of EMP is Sky Church, a concert venue capable of holding up to 800 guests. With 70-foot ceilings, it has state-of-the-art sound and lighting and the largest indoor LED screen in the world. Inspired by a term Hendrix used to describe a place where people of all ages and cultures could go to collectively celebrate musical experiences, Sky Church is a performance space, cinema, and dance hall for events hosted by the museum throughout the year, the website states.