Presentation of the project “Applied music for museums: The case of the Museum of Science and Technology in Belgrade” in the ICOM Serbia international edition of the magazine during the ICOM conference in Prague 2022
Applied music as a genre is highly developed in theater and film music in Serbia and the world, while its use in galleries and museums is an almost absent and unexplored area. The effects of applied music in museums on the experience of visitors have been insufficiently researched, as well as how much applied music in that context can contribute to the development of the audience, by attracting the so-called potential museum audiences (people who have positive attitudes but not the habits of visiting museums).
An increasing number of museum experts state that sound and music are becoming essential elements in the planning and design of museum exhibitions. There are numerous articles and studies in which it is suggested that sound and music should become an organic element of museum exhibitions because they encourage the involvement of the consumers/visitors and their receptivity to the information designed to attract them.
Several studies have been conducted on the impact of permanent music in museums so far. The results showed that the music contributed to the visitors spending more time in the museum, and it also had a positive effect on their emotional and cognitive experience. It is especially important to point out that the mentioned research was conducted during the broadcasting of popular and classical, previously composed music for other occasions, all day long through the audio system in the museum.
Art-research project “Applied Music for Museums: The Case of the Museum of Science and Technology in Belgrade” was designed and implemented by the Center for Applied Music-Belgrade, from May to December 2021, with the support of the Museum of Science and Technology (MST) – Belgrade and the Institute for Cultural Development Research, and under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia. The artistic dimension of the project examined the sub-genre of applied music for museums by composing three original permanently applied musical compositions for the permanent exhibition of the MST, integrating original musical compositions with the space and exhibits of the museum. The research dimension of the project dealt with measuring the effects of original applied music on the experience of museum visitors and audience development.
The original music for the three permanent MST exhibitions was composed by Aleksandar Vl. Markovic (Synomusic for the permanent exhibition “Man and Science” (54:00 min), art historian and author of applied music for numerous exhibitions, composer Miša Cvijović (Synomusic for the permanent exhibition “Toy Gallery” (14:43 min), and young composer Dušan Đorđević (Synomusic for the permanent exhibition “Scientific Workshop”) (15:44 min.) The research was conducted by psychologists Biljana Jokić and Ivana Luković with the support of the Institute for Cultural Development Research. Sound production (mixing and mastering), as well as the preparation of the museum audio system, was done by sound designer Dobrivoje Milijanović.
The artistic part of the project was conducted in several phases: 1. examination of the collection and exhibits of the MST – observation and musical inspiration; 2. examination of the space and audio system of the MST; 3. composing music and preparing audio segments of the exhibits of the MST; 4. studio recording, 5. music production, 6. music implementation and synchronization of the final composition in the museum space via audio system, 7. monitoring.
Original permanent music for MST is composed according to a specific composition methodology for the sub-genre of applied music (applied music for museums – synomusics). The style and length of the composition are determined by the unique parameters of each museum exhibition, where the content and documentary material of the exhibits and the time point of their creation as well as the exhibition space affect the form of the final musical composition. The music is essentially defined by the museum exhibits, while the length of the composition is conditioned by the size of the exhibition space, i.e., the average time it takes for the visitor to visit the exhibition space. Applied music for museums is composed in such a way that there is no beginning or end and it is played in a circle, permanently from the opening to the closing of the museum. The purpose of the music is to make the atmosphere more beautiful and pleasant for the visitor, as well as “to revive” the exhibits that are beginning to communicate with the visitors. Applied music should create an ambience in which the museum exhibit, the observer/consumer, and the museum space are connected into one integrated whole .
Research on the effects of applied music on museum visitors is designed as a pilot project on the effects of applied music for museums on the development of museum audiences. It contributes to creating a sustainable development model for museum audiences in general. The project at MST in Belgrade is unique in that for the first time, original permanent music was composed for a complete museum exhibition, and it was broadcast continuously for two months when research on its impact on museum audiences was conducted.
The research study aimed to examine attitudes about visits and experiences during a tour of the exhibition in MST – both before and after including music. A total of 310 MST visitors were surveyed. In addition, 22 in-depth interviews were conducted after the music is included, in order to deepen our knowledge of music effects. Representatives of different age groups, as well as the professional public (composers, art historians, and curators), were examined. Representatives of the group of blind and partially sighted people were also examined (four respondents aged 13-16 and three adults). In summary, the results of the research showed that the general impressions about the effects of music in the museum are similar for all groups of visitors: music completes the museum experience, it is perceived as part of the whole and, in cooperation with exhibits and space, enhances visitors’ impressions. The effects of music are reflected emotionally (improving mood), cognitively (enhanced memory, awakening curiosity, spreading knowledge), and behaviorally (moving to play and action).
The results of the project were presented at the final panel of the project, and Radovan Jokić, Assistant Minister of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia in the Sector for contemporary creativity and creative industries, and Zoran Lević, director of the MST, also addressed the audience. Besides the representatives of the project team, Aleksandra Vl. Markovic and Biljana Jokić, Nikola Krstović, President of ICOM Serbia, also spoke at the panel; Dušan Đorđević, composer; with a video address by Miša Cvijović, composer, and Alcina Cortez from the NOVA University of Lisbon (Portugal), with whom the Center for Applied Music is actively collaborating.
Composing and integrating applied music into the permanent exhibitions of the Museum of Science and Technology, as well as pioneering research, intrigued domestic and foreign experts and artists, open to examining a new model of audience development and presentation of museum content that suits the current digital age for the consumption of art and museum exhibits. Like applied music for film or theater, applied music in a museum has a role to play in influencing visitors’ moods – but the main focus is on presenting the museum’s artistic content by connecting space, exhibits, and visitors into single synesthesia.
Applied music in museums, in addition to its presentation role, and being a role model for better communication with the public and its development, can also serve as attractive original content on social networks and other museum communication digital platforms for a particular exhibition (web presentation, 360 photos, 3D, VR, AR, and AI) . It can be used for promotional and communication purposes of digital and analog content of the museum, but at the same time, it can attract people to come to the museum and fulfill the live exhibition experience.