EMP: Not Electronic-Friendly

I went to the Experience Music Project for the third time yesterday. The first time I loved the exhibit about the history of alternative music (or so I recall that’s what it was about — in particular I remember a special mini-section about the Minnesota music scene which I found awesome and validated my love for bands like Babes in Toyland [the original bassist went to my high school]). But the first time I went was in 1998 and my musical interests have changed a lot since then.

Despite looking all cool and futuristic, the museum is pretty stuck-in-the-past.

Okay, I take that back. When it comes to hip-hop music, the museum is surprisingly progressive. It actually acknowledges hip-hop as a valid music style and even has a featured exhibit called Yes Yes Y’all: The First Decade of Hip-Hop. It’s cool. Hip-hop artists and history is also featured prominently in the Sound and Vision: Artists Tell Their Stories permanent exhibit.

But when it comes to electronic music, there is nothing. The most electronic artist I could find featured was Afrika Bambaataa. There were a few things about DJing but it was all in the context of how that’s related to hip-hop and whatnot.

So while I want to say, “The EMP doesn’t have electronic music because it’s mostly just a rock ‘n’ roll museum,” the inclusion of all the hip-hop stuff (which is awesome, don’t get me wrong!!) shows that the museum wants to be more than just rock ‘n’ roll.

I guess there are two explanations for why there is such a blatant lack of electronic representation: one innocent reason and one more sinister.

Innocent: Electronic music could be considered even more recent than hip-hop music. A lot of the ideology behind electronic music and the DJ culture around it comes directly from hip-hop.

Sinister: Electronic isn’t considered “genuine” enough or “valid” enough as a musical genre. Maybe the curators think that it’s too trendy and isn’t going to last?

Most likely, the truth lies somewhere between those two explanations. But it’s still unfortunate. Imagine the Sound Lab with some more interesting keyboards and turntables and computers used for mixing electronic music. That would be awesome.

Or instead of the Guitar Gallery, how awesome would a gallery of the history of electronic instruments be??? Last weekend my friend Justin performed in the Seattle premier of Turangalîla. There was a very interesting instrument called ondes Martenot. I would love to see and learn more about proto-electronic instruments like this and the EMP with its Frank Gehry design and attached Science Fiction Museum seems like the perfect place.

Perhaps in a few years something will change. I do intend to send this feedback to the EMP and will of course post an update if I hear anything back.

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