Music, the new muse of museums

Listening to a concert surrounded by paintings by masters? It is now commonplace in the largest Parisian museums, which want to abolish the boundaries between the arts.

Should works of art be contemplated in silence? Or on the contrary, immerse yourself in music, nourishing it with a richer imagination, giving it greater emotional density, and thus tending to this “total art” dreamed of by Richard Wagner? In this ancient debate, Parisian museums have now decided: yes, music has its place in their galleries. So much so that most now have their own concert seasons.

If we exclude the official ceremonies of the Napoleonic era at the Museum of French Monuments (now the School of Fine Arts), where the orchestras played behind a curtain, we can consider that the adventure of the “musico-museum” began in the capital in 1967, at the Museum of ‘Modern Art of the City of Paris, with the creation of ARC (Animation, research, comparison). It was an avant-garde multidisciplinary experimental laboratory, born under the impulse of the curator Pierre Gaudibert, says Dominique Poulot, museum historian and professor in Paris I. He invited musicians like John Cage there. “ It was also the moment in which Iannis Xenakis presented his in the thermal baths of the museum of the Middle Ages Polytopus of Cluny (1972-1974), sound and light show, the first contemporary music work to be placed in a museum of ancient art.

Recital by Sir Andràs Schiff at the Fondation Louis-Vuitton.

Benjamin Viallatte /, © Louis Vuitton Foundation / Benjamin Viallatte

1986, a new turning point: when Orsay opened its doors, the public discovered an auditorium there: it was the first time that a museum had acquired such equipment. “The project, originally, he had to make Orsay a “cultural museum”, accounting not only for artistic creation, but also for the socio-economic conditions surrounding this creation, from a fairly Marxist perspective. The idea was supported by Giscard, who, curiously, had been fascinated by Soviet literary museums. He survived for a time after the arrival of the left in 1981. Then the supporters of the fine arts regained power, but the auditorium remained. ” In this 347-seat hall, on Thursday evenings and Tuesdays for lunch, we feast on concerts by Grieg, Debussy and other composers from the establishment period (1848-1914). While in the exhibition halls, four times a year, during the “musical walks”, the canvases of the Impressionists vibrate to the sound of piano-voice duets selected in collaboration with the Royaumont Foundation, on programs of lies and melodies. “We offer the visitor an enhanced view of the painting”, explains Sandra Bernhard, head of programming, who previously worked for Mezzo and the Orchester de Paris. The nave accommodates larger formats, often with sounds. Without forgetting these festive events such as the “curieuses nocturnes”, in which the museum is fully transformed dance floor and where we swing a glass in hand to listen to pop sounds or DJ mixes. In the concern to play the aesthetic shocks, the strategy of the institution is now that “get out of a too ‘nineteenth-nineteenth-century’ approachAnd “, the programmer insists. But also of “Bring the music out of the auditorium” to better occupy the other spaces and thus reach an audience different from simple music lovers.

Concert of the Orchester de Paris at the Musée Orsay.

Concert of the Orchester de Paris at the Musée Orsay.

Sophie Crepy

In this race for decibels and sixteenths, the Louvre is no exception. If, from Henry II to Louis XIV, the palace often resounded to the sound of court ballets and Italian operas, then, in the 18th century, great fashionable pages played at the Tuileries by the Spiritual Concerto (The four Seasons by Vivaldi, the Stabat mater de Pergolèse …), fell into relative silence when in 1793 the revolutionaries transformed it into a museum. It took two hundred years for the music to return there with great fanfare, with the inauguration in 1989 of an auditorium as part of the “Grand Louvre” project, itself an integral part of François Mitterrand’s “great works”. A 420-seat room located under Pei’s pyramid, which last year took the name of Michel Laclotte, director from 1987 to 1995, after his death. In thirty years there have been more than a thousand concerts that echo the permanent collections and temporary exhibitions. Sébastien Daucé, head of the Correspondances ensemble and familiar with the monument, describes the feelings he feels when performing in the Salle des Caryatids: “There is a spirit of the place that affects the way we play. It gives us a more intense experience, an inspiration. For its moving and ephemeral side, music brings a natural complement to sculptures or paintings which, by definition, do not move. “

Expand it to other audiences

But, beyond the aesthetic aspect, the irruption of musicians in museums also responds to a more political desire for cultural democratization. The goal is to broaden the public, rejuvenate it, make places that are considered static and outdated more dynamic and attractive. “We could not imagine a museum today without music, it is part of the necessary mediations”, says Dominique Poulot, who notices “a trivialization of musical accompaniment”. And the historian cites the example of these North American museums that “Use music like in elevators”. It would also exist of the “special boxes” in the marketing of background music for museum use. “Create a friendly and“ participatory ”atmosphere. It is assumed that the “experience” will be better for the visitor, which will make them more receptive and encourage them to stay longer. Music becomes the adjunct to a cool side of the museum. ” Ultimately, is this in the process of transforming into an entertainment venue like any other? A cultural center in a broad sense where the boundaries between the arts would be diluted? A return, in a certain sense, to the concept of origin: that of Mouseion of Ptolemy, in Alexandria (290 BC), considered the ancestor of museums, where the nine muses conversed with each other.


Program around the reign of Louis XIV, with the Harmonic Poem and the mezzo-soprano Adèle Charvet. November 16, 8pm Louvre Museum, 1uh. € 15-35.

National Ballet of Norway, with Nils Petter Molvær (trumpet). 22 and 23 November, 7.00 pm and 8.30 pm Nave of the Musée d’Orsay, 7And. € 10-14 (combined ticket with visit to the Munch exhibition).

Sepet for cello by Gautier Capuçon, of the “class of excellence” hosted by the Vuitton Foundation. November 26, 8:30 pm Louis-Vuitton Foundation, 8, av. by Mahatma-Gandhi, 16And. € 15-25.

And also: Museum of Romantic Life, Museum of Modern Art in Paris, Orangery …

“Curieuse nocturne” around Sam Szafran, concerts and performances with the pop composer Uèle Lamore. November 9, 19: 30-23: 00 Museum of the Orangerie, room of Water lilies. Tuileries Garden, 1uh. Upon presentation of the entrance ticket (€ 10-12.50).

French Youth Orchestra (conductor and violin: Julien Chauvin), Mozart, Beethoven. November 9, 8pm Louvre Museum, 1uh . € 10-22.

“Romantic Concerts at the Museum”, November 15, 6.30 pm Museum of Romantic Life, 16, rue Chaptal, 9And. FREE ENTRANCE.

“Music at the Louvre”, program focused on the beginning of the reign of Louis XIV. With Adèle Charvet (mezzo-soprano) and the Poema Armonico (dir .: Vincent Dumestre). November 16, 8pm Louvre Museum. € 15-35.

“Music and Munch”, with Marianne Beate Kielland (mezzo-soprano) and Nils Anders Mortensen (piano). November 17, 8pm Musée d’Orsay, 7And, auditorium. € 8-36.

Concerts on the occasion of the exhibition “Things. A story of still life ”. With the Béla and Wilhem Latchoumia quartet at the piano (November 18) and the Paris Percussion Group (December 7). November 18 and December 7, 8pm Louvre Museum. € 10-22.

National Ballet of Norway, with Nils Petter Molvær (trumpet and composition). 22 and 23 November, 7pm and 8.30pm Musée d’Orsay (nave). € 10-14 (combined ticket with visit to the Munch exhibition).

“Kokoschka and music”, concert and walk with the company Miroirs EXTENDED and the soprano Marie-Laure Garnier. November 24, 7:00 pm Museum of Modern Art of Paris, 11, av. by President-Wilson, 16ᵉ. FREE ENTRANCE.

Romantic Life Museum. Concert on baroque and romantic instruments of the Double Face ensemble. November 25, 6:30 pm 5-9 €.

Recital “Capucelli”, septet for cello from the “class of excellence” by Gautier Capuçon. Creations and commissions of the Vuitton Foundation (Dessner, Dubugnon, Connesson, Mantovani. 26 November, 20:30 Fondation Louis-Vuitton, 8, av. Du Mahatma-Gandhi, 16ᵉ. € 15-25.

“In the service of his majesty”, program around the reign of Charles II of England. Correspondences Ensemble (dir .: Sébastien Daucé). January 6, 8pm Louvre Museum. € 15-35.

This article is free to access today To support us, sign up! Special offer – € 29.99 for 1 year

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *