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Play It Loud - Rock & Roll Instruments at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Ellen Levitt

Posted on May 26, 2019 22:08

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Manhattan's Metropolitan Museum of Art is showing "Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll", a fascinating exhibition for music fans.

I do love rock & roll, and as a decent amateur musician myself, I enjoy eyeing various types of musical instruments. If those musical instruments were played by some of my favorite musicians, they're all the more interesting. Thus the current exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on Manhattan's 5th Avenue Museum Mile, is a surprising treat for fans of various rock music genres and time periods. On display are guitars, basses, drum kits, keyboards and other instruments played by several famous (and some obscure) musicians.

But this is more than a collection of celebrity-owned items. These instruments have back stories. There is information about the production of many of the instruments (including a few that were prototype models), and several that were custom made and custom worn down.

Many famous and significant bands and individual performers are represented here: Chuck Berry, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Who, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Miller, the Grateful Dead, Prince and many others. And the exhibition does seem dominated by guitars, especially electric guitars. You can compare the Gibsons and the Fenders, and the Rickenbackers and the Ibanez models. There are also several acoustic models, as well as basses (and a stand up bass used by James Jamerson of Motown), mandolins, dulcimers, a sitar, an autoharp and more.

Amidst the stringed things, other types of instruments do attract attention as well. There is a flute from Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, Louis Jordan's saxophone and Patti Smith's clarinet. They are atypical to the rock music canon, but they have their place here. 

The keyboards and synthesizers are also remarkable, including an early MOOG synth, as well as pianos, electric pianos and organs, and a Theremin too. 

While the bulk of the instruments displayed are from what would loosely be called "classic rock" bands, there are hard rock and heavy metal examples (including a set up from Metallica), roots rock, folk and ethnic. Among the more contemporary musicians represented here is St. Vincent. And speaking of her, while the majority of instruments are from male musicians, there are some from women such as Wanda Jackson, Joan Jett, and a few others.

In addition to the musical instruments there are concert posters (some quite rare) and clothing, including some priceless Prince outfits. There are videos and equipment from four guitarists as well.

Some of my personal favorites were a Bo Diddley rectangular guitar, Jerry Garcia's guitars, the five-neck guitar from Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen, a decorated Flying V guitar from Hendrix and Keith Moon's drum kit.

Do these things belong in the grand, elegant Met, known more for paintings, sculpture and drawings? This can be argued, certainly. However, they have long had a musical instrument collection that spans the history of instruments in general, and have displayed other instruments in smaller specialty exhibitions. Some may consider this crass commercialism, but there is plenty of artistic merit here. Check it out. Ogle. Enjoy.

 

Ellen Levitt

Posted on May 26, 2019 22:08

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Source: CNET

Opening April 8, the Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll exhibition debuts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New...

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