Reviewed by Geoffrey Gill
For years, the guitar has been a driving force in most western music. From the music of the Renaissance to the dawn of rock and roll, the guitar has remained a steadfast part of popular music and culture for decades. Or does it go back further?
The exhibit at the Science Museum of Virginia, Guitar: The Instrument That Rocked the World, examines the history and science behind this revolutionary instrument, from the guitar’s distant relatives in ancient Asian and Middle Eastern instruments to the electric showstoppers of today.
Going into this exhibit, my thoughts as a musician were abuzz. I entered into the world of music by taking my first piano lessons at age five, and since then I’ve learned how to play eight other instruments, including guitar for the past five years. Because of this, a single room containing dozens of guitars and similar instruments from throughout the ages, along with explanations of the science behind (just one of) my chosen instruments was certainly thrilling to me. However, the average teenager part of my brain wondered, “How interesting can a museum exhibit be?”
From the moment I stepped into the room, I was captivated. Going in chronological order, different instruments line the walls, showing the functional, aesthetic, and historical aspects of each instrument. In between, you’ll find interactive displays explaining the science at work, whether that means the physics of the moving string or the delicate mathematics involved in building a sturdy, well-voiced guitar. There are even displays for those not historically or scientifically inclined, my favorites of which are the giant functional, guitar and a display that plays examples of riffs on different kinds of guitars or other string instruments.
Guitar is only running until January 6, and I would heartily recommend stopping in for this exhibit sometime soon or over winter break. Who knows, parents? Maybe you have a budding rock star on your hands!
Free with museum admission, the exhibit also includes acoustic performances on most Saturdays through December 15. Head over to smv.org for all the details.