Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Destination: Sound Garden at the Museum of Life and Science

Posted January 19

The music is back at the Museum of Life and Science.

The Durham museum unveiled the new Sound Garden exhibit next to Gateway Park earlier this month, a do-it-yourself musical exhibit where visitors can experiment with the science of sound.

Sound Garden replaces the well-loved spaces that featured steel drums and other percussive instruments in the museum's former Loblolly Park. That exhibit, which sat in the same space, was torn down a few years ago to make way for Gateway Park, which opened in 2015.

Sound Garden features more than 25 hands-on instrument and sound experiences - from tongue drums and an amadinda, a traditional Ugandan instrument, to instruments made just for the exhibit featuring gears, wrenches and simple bamboo.

Museum staff collaborated with local experts as they designed the exhibit. Musician and builder Matthew Young and artist and metalworker Andrew Preiss, for instance, create the tongue drums. Local musician, professor, and "artivist" Pierce Freelon also offered advice.

All of the instruments are tuned, said Michele Kloda, exhibit designer at the museum, so that they are pleasant to listen to regardless of what notes or sounds a visitor is making.

"We wanted everyone to come away with some success and a pleasing sound," she said.

Sound Garden has two separate sections right next to each other. One features those tongue drums and singing bowls, along with a "grunge band wall" with instruments made from items people don't usually associate with music (like gears and wrenches).

In the other section, you'll find the large wooden amadinda, which looks a lot like a xylophone, tom-tom drums and a few other instruments.

Containers in both sections hold mallets with hard and soft sides so patrons can play the various instruments. Kloda recommends budding musicians experiement with both sides of the mallet to compare the different sounds they make.

Sound Garden is a beautiful space with a winding flagstone walkway, Adirondack chairs and a design that blends into the surrounding trees. Kloda said there are plans to include shading over the instruments so it's a pleasant space to spend time in once it starts getting hotter and sunnier.

The museum also will feature occasional programs in the space. Young, the musician who helped with the tongue drums, already has stopped by to perform and talk about his work.

Kloda said she hopes families will check out the exhibit during a day at the museum to try the different instruments and play music together. She also encourages parents to let their kids experiment.

"We hope parents will encourage experimentation and not be locked into the way they think the instruments should be played," she said.

Sound Garden is free with admission to the museum, which is $16 and $11 for kids ages 3 to 12.

Go Ask Mom features places to take kids every Friday. For more, check our posts on parks and playgrounds and Triangle family destinations.

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