Last week I was invited to attend a preview for the V&A's "You Say You Want A Revolution: Rebels and Records 1966-1970" exhibition. The V&A has been my favourite museum in London since I first visited the city a few years ago. You can imagine my excitement when the invitation landed in my inbox.
I wasted no time dusting off my best late 60's inspired look (a high-low mix of Dries Van Noten and ASOS) and headed to the museum for what must have been my 10th time this year. This time sans membership card, however!
But nothing could have prepared me for what was in store once I arrived at the museum. I arrived at the V&A alone (the invite list too exclusive to accommodate plus ones) and after a lengthy security check, I was on my down familiar halls. Once in the main courtyard, I was greeted by an illuminated sculpture across the water, inside sat a speaker system worth £50K which had been specially installed for the evening. This would be my first stop, I was one of few members of the press invited inside to listen. After a brief introduction by the Sennheiser team, I put on the headphones. I'll admit I was a little sceptical, other journalists had been moved to tears by the sound. Phrases like, "life-changing" and "Best sound ever" were being brandied about - I've heard a lot of hyperbole in my days but I'll admit... the HE 1 system measured up. Never in my life had I heard sound that was so robust and whole. I could every instrument at once individually and perfectly harmoniously. It was completely overwhelming, and I took the headphones off quickly knowing I couldn't get too attached (unfortunately I don't have an extra 50k laying around for headphones...). I knew this sound could not be replicated by my earbuds. With a foundation of the finest hand-selected Carrara marble and the remaining parts crafted from the finest quartz and copper - the HE 1 is truly a sight to see and hear. The listening experience was a superb introduction to the evening's journey into sound.
I spent the next few hours mingling with the Sennheiser team, meeting audiophiles and reminding people that although I may look young I was well versed in my 60's music and of course fashion.
Soon it was time to enter the exhibit and I won't spoil the experience for those going (do it!), All I'll say is those who've visited the David Bowie exhibit (on any of it's many stops around the world) will recognise the game-changing sound experience by Sennheiser. The technology allows for subtle changed a self-guided musical tour based on your location within the exhibit. The environments ranged from a room simulating an LSD trip with projected hallucinations to an audio experience (complete with beanbags on the floor) recreating Woodstock 1969 with live audio recordings from the original event.
The exhibit itself touched upon one of the most defining eras of music, as well as fashion and of course politics. Rife with references and controversial imagery - women's rights, the civil rights movement, sexual freedom, war, LGBT issues and drugs were just some of the topics covered in the expansive environments. From the youthful London look of Carnaby street (which is recreated inside) to posters from the Black Panthers activists and counterculture clubs, the exhibition really linked the dynamics of the swinging 60's to present day issues. Without being overbearing or preachy.
Perhaps it was the strong messages and stunning imagery... perhaps it was the realisation that I'd been invited experience this at one of my favourite museums in the world .... or perhaps I'd had one too many cocktails ... but I left the V&A feeling almost moved to tears.
There was so much to see, a full audio/visual sensory overload and so many considered and nuanced elements to take in - the only way to do this exhibit justice would be to revisit. Which is what I plan to do - bringing along a friend or two this time ;)
Exhibit details below You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 - 70 In partnership with Levi’s; Sound experience by SennheiserWith additional support from Fenwick and Sassoon 10 September 2016 – 26 February 2017 vam.ac.uk/revolution | #RecordsandRebels