Sunday, February 8, 2009

Let's All Go To Grammy's House!

You may or may not be watching the 51st Grammy Awards show tonight, broadcast in wonderful 3-hour tape delay from the Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles, but since we're talking about those awards with the little old school music playback device on it, the Militant might wanna take you to the new home of the Grammys -- LA Live.

As the Militant mentioned back in November, the Grammy Museum opened up in early December. The Militant got to check it out last week, accompanied by Militant Operative Stingray, himself a musician, and another trusted operative who is a part-time DJ. The museum, as was described, focuses on the recording process and highlights the history of the music awards.

The museum space is actually rather small, encompassing four levels of LA Live, but in actuality two complete floors, half of one and a tiny portion of another.

Your self-guided journey begins with a ticket purchase from the street level box office on Figueroa, where you're led up to the 4th floor via elevator and enter the main exhibit room after walking down a visual-filled corridor made up of images from recent Grammy awards (You're not allowed to bring cameras or take pictures, BTW, but of course, as you can see, the Militant is not exactly known to follow the rules...).

The first feature you'll likely see is the music genres exhibit, a long interactive table made up of computer-projected images of music genre names. By touching on the projected images on the table, you are able to see a short description and history of music genres - from ska to rapcore to drum n bass to heavy metal to new jack swing to doo wop - accompanied by a few musical examples. The descriptions are more or less accurate, though the description of "electronica" wasn't consistent with the Militant's understanding of the genre, and the musical selections for "heavy metal" were rather unexpected examples. Still, the Militant and his musically-inclined operatives spent more than an hour perusing all the genres (the Militant did notice some bugs in the touch-table interface though; touching "dancehall" pulled up the "bossa nova" genre instead...go figure...).

Not to far away was a touch-screen display of "Music Epicenters" across the United States, depicting a map with not just the expected music capitals like Los Angeles, New York, Nashville, New Orleans, Chicago and Austin, but many points in between as well. Of course the Militant headed towards the Los Angeles description, narrated by Los Angeles native musician Dave Alvin from The Blasters), which went from the beginnings of the local record industry and the opening of the Hollywood Bowl in the 1920s to the heavy metal and gangsta rap scenes in the '80s and '90s.

And for some reason, "Marina Del Rey"is listed as a "music epicenter." Why? You'll have to come to the museum to find out...

There are other similar interactive displays (usually with the aid of headphones) that show how music genres and trends affected contemporary culture - from Woodstock to disco to hip-hop.

The rest of the 4th floor contains a (surprise!) interactive display which has every single Grammy award archived (one of the Militant's operatives complained about the user-unfriendly navigation of that one), and various Hard Rock Cafe-type static displays of musical instruments, mementos and wardrobe from music legends through the years.

Going down to the 3rd floor (your self-guided Grammy journey takes you down each level), you're greeted to a mini-theatre environment depicting mini-documentaries of how various pop songs are written and recorded, in this case, Carrie Underwood's "Jesus Take The Wheel."

The rest of the 3rd floor is really fun - there are super-interactive "studio" booths that let you record, sing, rap, mix, remix or master music. No, you can't take your recordings home, but it's still fun nonetheless. Another theatre setting shows highlights from past Grammy performances. Because they can do that. There's also a static display of Grammy awards from the past, which the Militant gives massive props for not only mentioning the 1990 Milli Vanilli debacle, but showing a picture of the infamous 1998 Bob Dylan "Soy Bomb" performance. YES!

Going down to the second floor, there isn't much in terms of the good ol' interactive exhibits, but the half-floor does have speace for temporary special exhibits (currently, how wars and societal events have affected music -- from the Revolutionary War to today's Iraq War). There's also another theatre - a larger one, currently showing how Beyonce got to perform with Tina Turner in the 2008 awards. Then there's the Grammy Museum Gift Shop, which has the greatest let-down of all: Let's see - there's Grammy t-shirts, Grammy mugs, Grammy CDs and DVDs, Grammy keychains...anything missing? Anything you'd expect to buy from a Grammy Museum Gift Shop? How about MINIATURE SOUVENIR GRAMMY AWARDS? Real smart move there, Grammy Museum folks...

But disregarding that, it's still a pretty kickin' place, especially if you love music. The Militant and his operatives planned on spending two hours there -- they ended up spending nearly five. Yeah. Adult tickets cost $14.95, but if you're really into music, it's well worth it.

Best yet, it's nice to see a one-of-a-kind museum like this here in Los Angeles, and in Downtown no less (the entire LA Live grounds have a Walk-Of-Fame-like "Grammy Walk" emblem in the ground commemorating each award year) - especially considering the awards have also taken place in New York City and in Nashville, and the actual National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences is headquartered in Santa Monica.

1 comment:

philpalm said...

Thanks for the long Grammy Museum review. I'm sure each music genre has big and long histories that can't all be possibly covered.

I wonder if there is a docent program to train possible tour guides at that place?