Behind the Scenes at the DAM

The Sounds of Passport to Paris: Collaborating with the Colorado Symphony

During the planning phases of Court to Café, one of three exhibitions in the Passport to Paris suite, the exhibition team wanted to create an immersive experience for visitors. While the paintings, decorative arts, and historic clothing on view “sing” on their own, we felt that adding music to the mix would offer another layer of delight to the galleries and give an additional peek into the culture of the 1600s–1900s, three rich centuries of French history.

While the DAM’s job was to tell a story about the visual arts of kings, revolutions, and modern Paris, we needed guidance from the musical pros to select a playlist for the galleries that reflected the composers and musical styles of each era. The Colorado Symphony curated an extensive list of options to choose from, and after a very pleasurable hunt for the perfect tune, we landed on a playlist that visitors will hear in Court to Café as they travel across time in the galleries. Like the art on view, music changed significantly with the times. Click on the links below the photos to hear a preview of what’s playing in the galleries.

Atrium: Jean-Philippe Rameau, Les Indes Galantes, Sauvages, 1735–36. Performed by Orchestra of the 18th Century; Frans Brüggen, conductor. © ASCAP 

 

Fit for a King:  Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Te Deum, Prelude; Messe de Minuit: Kyrie, 1688–98. Performed by Les Musiciens du Louvre; Mark Minkowski, conductor. © ASCAP

 

The Upper Crust: François Couperin, Pièces de Clavecin, Book 3: 18th Order in F minor-major: Soeur Monique, 1722. Performed by Matthew Dirst. © ASCAP

 

A New Awakening: Ferdinand Hérold, Le Pré aux Clercs: Overture, 1832. Performed by Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana; Wolf-Dieter Hauschild, conductor. © ASCAP

 

Embracing Modern Life: Claude Debussy, Nocturnes, No. 1, Nuages, 1899. Performed by Boston Symphony Orchestra; Sir Colin Davis, conductor. © ASCAP

 

Lumière Brothers Films: Camille Saint-Saëns, Piano Concerto No. 5 in F major, Op. 103 (The Egyptian), 1896. Performed by Jean-Philippe Collard, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; André Previn, conductor. © ASCAP

Our technology staff installed speakers in the galleries that create a focused “shower” of sound. You might notice that when you stand under a speaker the music is very concentrated, and as you walk away it quickly quiets down. While we wanted music to be a part of each section of the exhibition, we didn’t want it to spill throughout the entire gallery, colliding with the other songs, or interfering with the music on the audio tour.

Visitors can enjoy the Colorado Symphony’s selections in the Court to Café galleries, as well as live performances on the Lower Level of the Hamilton Building every Saturday at 1 pm through February 8 (except January 4). The symphony is also offering its own suite of concerts inspired by French music of this era. 

Molly Medakovich is the master teacher for western American art in the education department at the Denver Art Museum. Molly has been at the DAM since April 2012, and her favorite exhibition that has been on view here is In Contemporary Rhythm: The Art of Ernest L. Blumenschein.