Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Natural History Museum With Side of Rock n Roll

The Museum of Natural History, or the American Museum of Natural History, as it's called, was not what I expected.

To be completely frank, what I expected was Ben Stiller giving me a guided tour of all the interesting exhibits from Night at the Museum. Instead, there were a bunch of stuffed animals and wax figures of "indigenous people." That makes me sad, which makes me even sadder that I went someplace historical and world-renowned and sulked because it wasn't as good as a movie made it seem.

I very much enjoyed seeing the African stuff, but I'm not really sure why I'd want to see stuffed birds of New York State. Boooring.

In terms of similar museums, I would go with the British Museum-- soo many mummies!-- and then the Field Museum in Chicago first. The building of the AMNH was beautiful, but the content was mostly meh.

Today, I went to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Annex in SoHo. These two days were not a museum marathon even close to Museum Day, of course.


The 40 person tour group of high schoolers accompanying my entrance were a bit scary at first, but then I got caught up in the muazk and all my cares floated away. The first thing you do at this museum is go into a dark room with silver plates lining the walls-- each shows the signature of an artist in the Hall of Fame. There's music playing and the respective musician's signature lights up. So cool! From there, we made our way into a big area with stools facing a screen and lights facing us. It felt like being onstage. There was a 10-15 minute reel of some of the artists in the Hall of Fame. Whoever curated the film is a genius. They had performances from some of the earliest rock n rollers to the '60s to punk to Prince to U2.

After the film, we all filed out into the actual exhibit space and were handed an audioset with headphones. The thing syncs up with wherever you're standing: if you're looking at Keith Moon's platforms, The Who are playing. SO COOL. It would mess up sometimes if you backed up to look at something; I was watching a video of the White Stripes (demonstrating the progression from Aerosmith's music to theirs) when I moved out of someone's way and I was suddenly hearing "Heroin" by the Velvet Underground. Surprise! The next video installation area is "art rock" and Velvet Underground is over there.

One of the most interesting things (no, not Prince's coat, or Johnny Cash's boots, or Dylan's harmonica, or Mick Jagger's playsuit, or Madonna's Gaultier cone bra, or Ringo Starr's drum cover thing) was seeing notebooks and scraps of paper covered in scribbles and chord progressions-- the birth of a song! Some songwriters would have to cross out and revise some lyrics. Others were almost Mozart-y, with their first draft lyrics down with no adjustments.

I also loved getting close and reading letters the Beatles and the Stones wrote their fans in the '60s.

Further in, the stuff got bigger-- they have Springsteen's '57 Chevy convertible and most of CBGB in there.

The only thing I missed was anything Bowie, obviously. I mean, chaps from the New York Dolls and not even one spangled outfit from the Man Himself?

The end of the museum is the John Lennon in NYC exhibit. It was curated by Yoko Ono, so almost everything is pretty sickly peaceful and hippie in there. The walls and carpet are white, and four big video screens cover the walls with films the couple made together. It's a really well done pro-peace demonstration. You essentially get to know John as a New York resident, read his letters and see his drawings, and then BANG! there's a bag of his blood-stained clothes the hospital returned to Yoko after his death. It was extremely sad and touching.

I was riveted to the clip they showed around 2:11.

Tickets are hella expensive, but I recommend it. A working knowledge/appreciation of rock music is also a prerequisite. It would be boring to a group of, say, 40 of your average freshmen high schoolers.

(images from here)


Heather said...

This looks amazing! I want to go to there! (30 Rock? Anyone?)

Anna said...

Did you know Tina Fey's daughter always says that and Tina wrote it into the show? FACT.

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