MuPop: The history of Pop Music in Central France
Text: Eddi Fiegel | Photos © MuPop
When it comes to the history of rock’n’roll, many cities have played a major role. Memphis, Liverpool, London – to name a few. The small town of Montluçon, however, just over an hour’s drive north of Clermont Ferrand in central France, might not necessarily spring to mind – but perhaps it should.
In amongst the town’s steep, winding medieval streets dotted with 15th and 16th-century houses around the banks of the river Cher, lies France’s only museum dedicated to popular music.
MuPop (Museum of Pop) is a museum with a difference, both inside and out. Spread over two separate buildings, Méchain and Charnisay, the museum has been strikingly converted by Philippe Tixier of architectural practice Atelier 4. Using part of the buildings’ original façades, Tixier has brought them very much up to date, creating what looks like a futuristic piece of outside bronze origami, in sharp contrast to the centuries-old buildings nearby.
Inside, not only is there a huge collection of musical instruments on display as well as 20th-century rock and pop memorabilia, but it is also very much a modern, high tech, sensory experience.
Dotted throughout the museum are five different touch screens transforming the traditional museum viewing into a highly interactive experience. Visitors also receive specially designed headsets which use innovative modern technology to bring sounds and commentaries about the different exhibits alive.
The collection includes more than three and a half thousand musical instruments dating from the 18th century onwards, and is considered one of the most important musical collections in France.
Exhibits include more than 200 electric guitars, 30 drums, 36 accordions as well as some 80 brass and 200 wind instruments. As well as the musical instruments themselves, there is also musical memorabilia such as record sleeves, photos, posters, stage costumes, dance halls, punk rehearsal rooms and music-related documents.
Elsewhere, other displays cover the evolution of 20th-century music-listening equipment, from early phonographs and record players to transistor radios, tape recorders and early televisions.
There is also an archive with its own special library and an extensive collection of records and tape recordings.
The history of the collection
The collection has been built up gradually over the last 50 years and, for the most part, belongs to the town of Montluçon through donations and acquisitions from various bodies including the Musée de la Musique (Museum of Music) in Paris and MuCEM (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations) in Marseille. Although these other museums cover some of the same history, it is the MuPop collection which is thought of as the backbone of them all.
Summer Hits – a new exhibition
Alongside the permanent collection, MuPop regularly holds innovative exhibitions and, from 29 June 2019 to 5 January 5, the new show will be entitled Les Tubes de l’été – which loosely translates as ‘summer hits’ – often the kind of Europop, Eurodisco or novelty hits that have been ubiquitous across Europe since the 1960s. See Kaoma’s Lambada in 1989 or La Macarena – a global hit every summer for three years from 1995 to 1997.
The exhibition will cover the different styles (disco, Macarena, pop etc), using displays of costumes, instruments, gold discs and other memorabilia to explore the social and political context of the time whilst also detailing how the media of the time, for example, television, radio, records and cassettes, influenced their success. The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of concerts, talks and workshops as well as a specially produced catalogue.
Activities for all the Family
The museum also has specially arranged family activities, both at weekends and during the school holidays. In July and August, there are special workshops lasting between 40 minutes and two hours, with singing and games while children learn about different instruments and the history of music.
Details: MuPop is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 12 noon and from 2pm to 6pm. Admission is 7,50€ for adults, 5€ for over 60s, 4€ for 13 to 18 year olds and 2€ for 7 to 12 year olds.MuPop, 3 Rue Notre Dame, 03100 Montluçon, France. 00 33 4 70 02 19 62 Web: mupop.fr
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