Andrew Lowings, Civil Engineer Project Manager, Gold Lyre of Ur Project, Cambridgeshire

Observations about Musical Performances in Museums based upon Archaeological Instruments

A ten year project, based around early Mesopotamian instruments, started by a group of music promoters and performers, has culminated in successful staging and museum exhibitions in a number of countries.
During the period of our research on bringing THE GOLD LYRE OF UR to life, we have also learnt a great deal about the pitfalls and drawbacks of attempting to combine MUSIC with MUSEUMS. We have discovered what seems to work and what is not so appropriate.
And times are changing.
Musicians, as much as Museums, are facing historic challenges like never before. Economic pressures on both musicians and museums are increasing due to the public’s fascination with the entertainment provided so easily by the Internet.
Tastes in music are changing too, and the spaces of museums were often built for a past and different era. And spare income for most people is more carefully managed.
But we have seen that these challenges are being met with innovative museum ventures, and are creating satisfying, visitor experiences.
Fresh ideas on all sides, if combined with discussion beforehand, and subsequent analysis about how the music was perceived and how it augmented the museum`s mission, will always lead to improvements about what can work.

We have found that for this to be successful we need to observe how human nature responds to music in museums. The danger of amplification; the sensitive use of theatre and drama; the location-space and the type of music, and its innate connection to the museums’ collections are vital. Establishing the context of the music is required. We have found a strong hand of management is often needed to stop musicians straying from the purpose of the collaboration.

Success is already happening; not only in museums, but elsewhere in other public spaces. Music is being recognised as a way of enlivening the experience and giving an added dimension to the purely visual impact presented by a display.
Places of worship are branching out into presentational music programmes for their own value. Care homes and even hospitals not only allow musicians to operate to defuse stressful situations and give comfort, but proudly report that it is now part of the mainstream recovery process.

This paper will give my view on the thought processes behind collaborations and will report on experiences of our relationships with museums using the Gold Lyre of Ur within our project: a project bringing cuneiform translations; the music of ancient lyres; and spoken and sung Babylonian texts; to extremely diverse communities, from Europe to the Middle East.