Two Museums

I’ve been to two music museums here, the Haus der Musik and the Arnold Schönberg Center. The first is geared a little more toward a general audience. On the ground floor there is a section about the history of the Vienna Philharmonic (complete with a case of the batons of famous conductors!) and an area where you can watch a video of a light New Year’s concert by the orchestra, under Franz Welser-Möst. There is also an activity where you get to create your own waltz – there are two bouncy rubber dice, one red and one blue, which you throw into a little sensor. One of them selects a few bars of a melody and the other ditto of a bass line, and any of the thirty-six possible combinations will turn into a waltz. The frustrating thing about it is that they don’t explain why all these various bits can be recombined in these ways – there isn’t anything about keys or chords or anything. But it was fun throwing the bouncy dice, I guess.

Upstairs there is an exhibit about sound an dhow the brain processes it that seems more informative than it actually is – it seems to waver between a detailed technical explanation and a more general impressionistic description. It’s not meant only for children, either (many of the displays are at eye and touch level for adults rather than smaller humans.) Further on there’s a series of rooms dedicated to famous composers associated with Vienna: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, etc. These are sort of cute, and if one didn’t know that Mozart had an older sister who was also a musical prodigy, or that Beethoven had bad BO, one would know after this, if one read all the displays. (I knew about the sister, but not about the BO, though I guess it doesn’t surprise me.)

20131225-105302.jpgI enjoyed the Schönberg center more. It’s just one room, but the advantage is that after you read the little display about Schönberg’s string quartets, for example, there’s a stand with headphones and you can listen to several of them – two versions of each, if you like. Ditto for various pieces of his other chamber and vocal music. There’s also a fairly cogent explanation of twelve-tone serialism and what Schönberg thought the method could achieve, written by the composer himself. All that was lacking was a little twelve-tone compositional activity display – such an activity might ask you to select twelve tones by some method, and then play them backwards, or invert them etc., alter the rhythm, and the results could be inflicted upon you by means of a pair of headphones.

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