The Listening Gallery

By Stuart Frost

I recently had some good news about a collaborative project that I’ve been working on with colleagues at the V&A and the Royal College of Music. In November 2007 the Royal College of Music applied to the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for a grant that would allow the V&A to integrate high-quality recordings of medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music with the forthcoming permanent Medieval and Renaissance Galleries and the temporary Baroque exhibition.Detail from St Denis Missal

The application to the AHRC has been successful which is fantastic news. The project will last for two years and will enable us to connect objects in the V&A’s collections with recordings of music with which they have a strong relationship. The grant from the AHRC will enable us to provide visitors with a rich multi-sensory experience and to help us bring remote periods of European history to life.

There will be fourteen audio-points in the new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries. Visitors will be able to sit down, pick up a pair of headphones and to listen to a number of recordings. There are countless objects in the collection which have a strong connection with music.

The Museum has an important collection of musical instruments that includes Renaissance lutes and harpsichords.  Many objects feature representations of musical instruments that no longer survive. Others like the St Denis Missal feature musical notation that hasn’t been recorded before.  As part of the project a signficant number of new recordings will be made. In other cases existing recordings will be utilised. The music will also be made available via the V&A’s website for downloading.

Music was a central part of life in medieval and Renaissance Europe and this project will highlight to visitors just how significant music was. I find it incredibly exciting to think that visitors will be able to sit in a new gallery looking at a display of Gothic stained-glass whilst listening to recordings of the music which once filled the cathedrals where the glass was placed.  Rather than looking at the Baffo harpsicord which I’ve illustrated here, visitors will be able to hear recordings of the music which it would have been used to play. Click on the image to find out more about the object.

Harpsichord by Giovanni Baffo, 1574, Venice. Museum no. 6007-1859The idea for the project to integrate music with the displays was first raised late in 2006 by Flora Dennis and Giulia Nuti. I’m delighted that thanks to the efforts of a large number of people the application was submitted successfully. Giulia will play a central role in delivering the project. She is a very talented musician and if you click on the link below you’ll be able to hear some recordings that she made for the recent At Home in Renaissance Italy exhibition. I’ll use the blog to post updates as things progress.

Click here to listen to extracts of music recorded for At Home in Renaissance Italy

Click here to find out more about the Royal College of Music / V&A Listening Gallery project.

One thought on “The Listening Gallery

Frost Stuart:

Click on the link below to see a short film about the St Denis Missal:

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