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February 22, 2013
October 21, 2004
The EMP was heavily funded by Microsost co-founder and entrepreneur, Paul Allen. He was supposedly quite a fan of local rock icon Jimi Hendrix (who is buried at Greenwood Cemetery in suburban Renton), so the original intent was to establish a museum to display his vast collection of Hendrix memorabilia. This plan somehow fell through, but its scope expanded to become a place to honor not only rock and roll music but its older (blues, soul, jazz, gospel, and country) and younger relatives (punk and hip hop) siblings. Hendrix does get his own gallery inside, and perhaps the architect is honoring the Purple Haze guitarist with the use of purple on the exterior.
Unlike the great Guggenheim Bilbao, which is one monochromatic mass, the EMP consists of several crumpled balls of various colors. Twenty-one thousand shingles, each a distinctly sized puzzle piece, were fitted to create the exterior layer in hues of purple, silver, gold, red, and baby blue. The first three colors are stainless steel; red and blue are painted aluminum. The mirrored purple panels are as mesmerizing as sequins on a Tina Turner dress. Gehry was inspired by the shapes and shades of electric guitars during his design process, though one may sarcastically compare the forms with a smashed-up Pete Townshend guitar. The project strikes me as a blow-up of a kid’s science project, with the giant red heart, and perhaps a silver liver and a golden gall bladder too. It does not win the science fair, but it does get noticed and perhaps that is what matters in this setting. The tracks of the Monorail slice under the baby blue blob, which helps to tie the EMP into the Seattle Center fabric.
The EMP is filled with musical memorabilia (including a gallery of guitars) and captivating old video clips, but it also promotes its interactive aspects like the Sound Lab where visitors can try their hand at playing instruments or mixing music. An additional attraction to the complex in June 2004 is the new Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, which will cost you a few extra dollars.
These curvy and crinkly blobs are not my favorite Gehry concoctions, but he does employ colors liberally to stretch his architectural vocabulary. If you have the time and the money, check out the inside of the Experience Music Project. If you can only visit one, I recommend walking around the EMP and going up the Space Needle.
From journal Bill in the USA - SEATTLE
New York, New York
December 30, 2000
From journal Experience Music Project in Seattle
Riverview, New Brunswick
June 12, 2007
Your visit will probably begin in Sound and Vision in which the EMP has recorded the stories of a number of artists and producers…you can hear the voices of Noel Redding, Jackie deShannon, Ice-T, and many more as they tell their stories. Included is a screen showing performance footage. It wasn’t our favourite gallery; as time goes on and, hopefully, more stories are added, it might be.
The Guitar Gallery was something again. A collection of 50 guitars including rare Nationals, Dobros, Fenders, Gibsons, and Rickenbackers tells the story of the development of the guitar. For anyone who cares, it’s really an interesting exhibit, for the guitar as science and as art. A screen features vignettes of the guitar greats; you’ll see Les Paul, Eddie Cochrane, Albert King, Bonnie Raitte, and many more.
In The Northwest Passage, you’ll trace the Seattle music scene from ‘40s jazz to the R & B of the ‘50s and onward. Homegrown Dolton Records produced the Frantics, the Fleetwoods, and the Ventures. As "Battles of the Bands" became popular, the local Kingsmen fought it out with Paul Revere and the Raiders to become the best purveyors of "Louie, Louie". The Kingsmen’s "Louie Louie" was a modest scandal at the time with its muddy lyrics and background comments. There is even a copy of the FBI files on their song available…a little hard to believe by today’s standards. The music in the passage evolves to include groups involved in the psychedelic ‘60s, punk, rap and eventually, grunge. There is striking memorabilia from Heart and Queensryche. It would have been difficult to avoid the Seattle music scene while we were growing up…it was diverse and rich.
Upstairs, you’ll find the Jimi Hendrix Gallery; it’s an amazing collection of the late guitarist’s possessions, letters, and costumes. It is somewhat oddly juxtaposed with The Disney Gallery next door... But EMP is more than just a museum. There is also a Sound Lab where you can try your talent with an electric guitar and for a little money, cut a CD. On the Sound Stage, you can experience the life of a rock star and cut a DVD. Throw in the JBL Theatre running big shows, a restaurant and a bar and you have a place in which you can spend a lot of time.
EMP presents an incredible amount of musical information; it doesn’t pretend to cover the entire field, but what it does cover, it covers well. Go to EMP.
From journal Jewel of the Northwest
Leeds, United Kingdom
June 19, 2002
The Experience Music Project is the pet project of one of the Microsoft billionaires, a florescent red and green monstrosity at the foot of the Space Needle, a shrine to Jimi Hendrix, the perfect example of the things that go wrong when people have too much money and not enough... not enough people around them to tell them when an idea is just plain dumb.
The EMP can't decide whether it's a museum or a theme park, and nastily meshes elements of both. There are exhibits, and each exhibit can trigger a commentary or a piece of explanatory text on your MEG - a little palm-top computer that you're given on the way in - and I have to say that this is actually a pretty cool piece of kit. The problem with the concept is that you end up with hundreds of people walking around the exhibits wearing headphones plugged into the MEG. The very thing that music is best at - bringing people together - has been stripped away from it.
There are also rides, and I use the term loosely. The Artist's Journey is essentially a cinema in which the seats move, telling the story of 'Funk' using tacky film-making techniques and actors that would have seemed stilted in the 1920s. There are other rides which allow you to perform on stage in front of an imaginary audience and have your picture taken as a rock 'n' roll star. They aren't bad ideas - then again, they ain't great - but the problem is that it just takes too long to get in to the rides, queues sometimes going as long as 90 minutes.
There are hundreds of reasons to hate the EMP. The way it takes itself so seriously. The way the employees all think that they're roadies. The way that it is so damn ugly, and so damn bright.
I, however, have a very personal reason to hate the EMP. Why would they build something that has nowhere to shelter under. Trying to run from the rain and hiding under the EMP is a singularly bad idea since the futuristic curvy shape forms a perfect funnel to direct rain onto those underneath. Then again, it's not as if it rains in Seattle.
From journal Summer in Seattle
March 14, 2001
From journal Seattle Sounds
March 25, 2002
I think many folks consider themselves to be huge music aficionados, but this museum will spoil that illusion for the less enthusiastic fan. The displays are rather detailed and academic, lending a serious museum-like quality to this "Project." Despite having plenty of diversions like the interactive thrill ride, Experience Music project does offer a serious investigation into the art form of rock music. Many friends have remarked to me how boring the whole thing was, even though they were quite excited initially about visiting the "rock museum."
I know that I have been a huge music forever, as my 3000 CD collection can attest. But I was still somewhat frustrated by aspects of the museum, too. There is a strong bent towards rock and blues, which is perfectly understandable considering that Jimi Hendrix is the focal point of the "Experience." But many significant genres of rock (specifically r&b/soul music) are nearly absent from the museum. Perhaps my biggest gripe is that there is no serious research facility associated with the museum. An interactive computer exhibit downstairs offers some additional information on the museum’s holdings but is in no way a significant research tool for students of popular music studies.
The exhibits are quite well put together and informative. The Northwest Passage in particular was illuminating in both the history of local music and Seattle itself. I’m not really a Jimi Hendrix fan, though the exhibit on his life and work was thoughtfully constructed and engaging.
The interactive musical instrument play area was fun, but the lines to use each piece of equipment had my friend and I running out of their pretty quick. It’s pretty funny (and embarrassing with others waiting outside, watching you) to sing along with Ann & Nancy Wilson of Heart.
The James Brown funk thrill ride was somewhat amusing, but it didn’t seem like a good use of the expensive technology employed in creating it. The kids who rode along with us didn’t seem to absorb anything about funk; all they could talk about was the space ride that lasts for a few seconds at the beginning and end of the ride. I think older children are better suited to appreciating this somewhat mature and academic museum.
One final note: the free audio guides that you can check out to bring along on your trip weigh a ton. You might want to consider going without one, as they don’t provide that much insightful commentary.
From journal Washington: Seattle
Seattle, Washington, Afghanistan
December 13, 2004
If you are in Seattle, you have to at least drive or walk by the building. It is unique architecturally and, well, you be the judge of its aesthetic appeal... I personally did not find the EMP worth the $20 it cost to get in, but my friend loved it and immediately signed up for a membership! I love music, but this was not the outlet that interested me.
They have temporary exhibits that are very interesting, such a photography exhibit of music artists. I saw one that was of the Beatles. It was very interesting to see previously unreleased photos, but $20 is a steep price to pay to see some photos.
Other exhibits are very interactive, where you get to actually play instruments in the music lab and create a little video or take lessons and write songs. Another exhibit was an amusement-style ride that seemed something similar to Epcot Center, where you are in a seat which moves and sways to a video that gives you the feeling you are actually in the movie. There is now a sci-fi museum attached to the EMP, which I have yet to see.
If you would just like to see the inside of the building for its architecture, you can do so by going to the Turn Table restaurant or the Liquid lounge bar for no admission price and order a drink. The Sky Church (auditorium) has great concerts and shows. Check their website for the line-up.
From journal Seattle, my home
June 15, 2004
From journal Labor Day week in Seattle
May 8, 2004
From journal Seattle in all its glory!!