An Exhibition On Electronic Music Worth Raving About At Design Museum

Electronic, Design Museum ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 48 months ago

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Last Updated 29 July 2020

An Exhibition On Electronic Music Worth Raving About At Design Museum Electronic, Design Museum 4
An entrancing strobe installation pulses in tune with a history of electronic music

An exhibition on electronic music sounds like an oxymoron. Fast beats and strobe lights can't possibly be compatible with the sedate viewing experience we associate with museums, can it? Thankfully Design Museum is up to the task and has the balance spot on in an exhibition worth raving about.

We kick off with information panels setting out the history of electronic music, so that even those unfamiliar with the genre get a grounding in its evolution and how it's closely linked to technology — electro pioneer Jean Michel Jarre's imaginary studio could easily pass as a scientific lab, complete with laser harp.

Jean-Michel Jarre's imaginary studio.

There are plenty of ports where I can plug in my headphones and listen to excerpts of great tracks, but it's not a pure music-fest, as fashion, photography and artworks are all packed into this dense exhibition as well. A favourite of mine is a metal cube that is programmed to react to beats and dance to the music, clanging away as it literally makes shapes.

The music scene is understandably struggling post-pandemic and it's clear to see why in Andreas Gursky's photograph of hundreds in a crowded club in Dusseldorf. Just looking at it gave me social distancing anxiety and I felt myself physically shudder, wondering how long it will be before I can feel safe going to any event that busy.

Andreas Gursky's photograph of Union Rave in Dusseldorf.

Thankfully there's no crowds here as strict social distancing measures ensures we all have space to breathe. Space is what's needed as there's tons of detail to take in including the sheer diversity within the electronic music scene, its evolution over time and a blindingly kitsch skull shaped glitter ball — it's kitsch, but I want one.

The two immersive experiences are highlights: a history of global electronic music plays in a room where a strobe light installation reacts to the music, with an effect that's entrance-ing — it's a room that I could easily spend an hour in. The exit is through a smoke-filled room playing a Chemical Brothers music video on the screen which creates a thumping finale — a fitting end to an exhibition where my head was nodding and my feet tapping instinctively throughout.

The final installation by The Chemical Brothers.

The low lighting and the liberal use of scaffolding adds to the nostalgic atmosphere that will appeal to electronic music fans. Thankfully it's also accessibly curated so even those who think EDM is an energy supplier will love it too.  

Electronic: From Kraftwerk to The Chemical Brothers at Design Museum is on from 31 July - 14 February 2021. Tickets are £16-£18 and must be booked in advance. Visitors must also wear masks and bring their own headphones.

All images copyright Felix Speller for Design Museum.