Making music at the museum

Bengaluru’s Museum of Art & Photography’s new digital festival merges art, learning and melodies

Updated - December 06, 2021 02:17 pm IST

Published - December 04, 2021 09:42 am IST

Women of the World

Women of the World

When I was in college at the Faculty of Fine Arts MSU, Baroda, the museum was a place students went to play hooky. It was never to look at the beautiful replica of the Dancing Girl of the Indus Valley Civilisation, the stunning collection of Chola bronzes, or the giant skeleton of the whale that hung from the ceiling. That was only appealing to nerds like myself.

Fortunately, in the last 20 years, things have changed. Museums are no longer dusty and desolate; they are well lit, multisensorial interactive spaces that are led by an enthusiastic team of curators and collaborators, coming up with new ways of engaging their audience. And it is heartening that the change is happening in both public and private sectors, working across artistic disciplines.

Internationally, the Louvre and Tate are working with augmented reality to allow immersive experiences. Recently, Victoria & Albert in London invited visitors to tumble down the rabbit hole with their Curious Alice exhibit that worked with virtual reality. In India, too, museums such as Bhua Daji Lad (BDL), Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, CSMVS (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya) and the Goa Art Museum have upgraded and updated their approach and programming.

Grammy winner (and recent second time nominee) Ricky Kej

Grammy winner (and recent second time nominee) Ricky Kej

“Museums have become vibrant institutions of learning and entertainment. In India, this potential is only just being recognised, and we have a lot of catching up to do,” says Tasneem Mehta, BDL’s managing trustee, adding that they have “created a comprehensive cultural campus for all age groups covering not just art and culture, but a range of natural history, environment and socio-economic subjects”.

Sound check

At Bengaluru’s Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), the experiment is with music. This weekend, it is hosting Art is Life: SoundFrames. Curated by Sadhana Rao, the three-day digital festival — in collaboration with the Berklee College of Music, Boston — it will present over 25 events inspired by music, including concerts, performances, panel discussions, film talks, educational workshops and exhibitions. Featuring will be more than 65 artists from around India and the world such as Ambi and Bindu Subramaniam of SubraMania, Grammy winner (and recent second time nominee) Ricky Kej, musical talents from IndianRaga, young Hindustani maestro Pandit Sanjeev Abhyankar and the Darbari Qawwals of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah.

“Art is at the heart of any community. The digital museum intends to bring together its various aspects, not just the visual arts,” says MAP’s director, Kamini Sawhney — who played a key role in the festival along with award-winning musician, Annette Philip, artistic director of the Berklee India Exchange — explaining how the Art is Life festival, launched last year, had a great response. “We are celebrating its anniversary with the theme of music, as a positive response to the pandemic.”

Annette Philip, artistic director, Berklee India Exchange

Annette Philip, artistic director, Berklee India Exchange

Map will also host five workshops that will include voice therapy, and a section on capturing the profile of the city through its sound (sounds of the sea in Mumbai, the bustle of Old Delhi). “We put out a public call encouraging producers to work with the Ableton Software [a digital audio workstation for both macOS and Windows] that will help them integrate the sounds of their cities.” There are entries from Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Delhi.

Looking beyond artefacts

“At MAP we have always been about reimagining the museum so that it is not just a repository of objects, but also of ideas, conversations and interactions. A community can’t be collaborative without tapping into its creative aspect, which is why we must be inclusive to all aspects from folk to classical, popular to traditional. We must help people to collapse the hierarchy,” says Sawhney.

The idea is one she shares with Phillip. “Both our institutions hope to not only preserve and sustain cultural conversations about and through the arts, we both actively engage and welcome community participation in the creation of art and music,” Phillip tells me by email. “I believe this is the first of many dynamic collaborations Berklee will have with MAP going forward.” While the entire programme is “stunning”, she concludes that she is particularly excited about Women of the World, Ricky Kej and Sounds of the City.

From December 3-5. The digital festival is also accessible to the visually-disabled and incorporates Indian sign language.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.