The Science and Industry Museum has launched a world-first exhibition, Turn It Up: The power of music, to explore the science behind sound and discover what the future holds for melody making.

A multi-sensory exploration of music, it features specially commissioned interactive installations, immersive activities, never-before-seen musical inventions, first-hand accounts from renowned musicians and cutting-edge research.

Curator of exhibitions, Steven Leech, explains why music is the ideal inspiration for those looking to explore everyday science and why Manchester is the perfect place to premier this experience before it heads out on a national and international tour.

The first visitors at the launch of ‘Turn It Up: The Power of Music’ in the Musical Playground at the Science and Industry Museum, Manchester - 19th October 2022. Credit © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum Group

“Science and music surround us all every day,” he says. “We might not be conscious of the connections, but whether it’s inventing new music-making technologies, experiencing the ‘chills’ in response to our favourite tracks, or simply singing in the shower, music has a profound impact on our bodies and minds. Turn It Up reveals the mysterious hold music has over all of us and the surprising science underpinning all of this.

“Our core mission at the Science and Industry Museum is to show that science is for everyone. What better way to do this than through an exhibition that explores music – a subject with which we all have a unique and deeply personal relationship, but which unites us all through its inescapable impact on our lives.”

He continues: “When we consulted audiences about the exhibition, we discovered that, like science, many people don’t think music is for them. Lots of people felt they weren’t musical if they weren’t a trained musician. Turn It Up challenges this view by unveiling the latest research that reveals our shared human responses to music – something that we all have. Turn It Up is for everyone. We are all musical. You don’t have to able to play an instrument or be a music superfan – we provide playful and welcoming spaces for people to experiment with sound and showcase what humans have achieved by embracing the drive to create, perform, feel and share through music.

 “Whether it’s brand-new compositions that take you on an emotional journey, cutting-edge technology that makes music-making accessible to everyone, or even discovering how music can influence anything from our shopping habits and driving to sporting ability, you will encounter many different stories and experiences that explore the everyday science behind music. This also includes ground-breaking projects which use music as medicine for people living with dementia and Parkinson’s.”  

The first visitors at the launch of ‘Turn It Up: The Power of Music’ in the Musical Playground at the Science and Industry Museum, Manchester - 19th October 2022. Credit © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum Group (2)

The Science and Industry Museum wants people to embrace their own imaginations. Leech points to the specially commissioned musical playground which provides a space where visitors can play, experiment, and make music. With no preconceived idea about what the outcome should be, this is an opportunity for people to unleash their inner music-maker and revel in the joy of getting creative together.

He says: “Manchester’s approach to music aligns with the spirit of the exhibition. Music is at the core of the city – where experimental sounds emerged and boundaries of traditional music making were pushed, changing the landscape of British music for good. Turn It Up delves deeper into these themes from a global and shared human perspective. It features unique instruments (such as a flame-powered organ), novel audio technologies from across the world, and personal and relatable accounts from international contributors about how they use the power of music to bring people together, overcome adversity and even process grief.  

“It also celebrates Manchester’s leading role in the field of music research and audience impact studies. We have partnered with the likes of the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) and the University of Salford in the exhibition to showcase the world-leading research being conducted by innovative scientists across our city.”

Music psychologist Michelle Phillips at the RNCM is investigating ‘why we listen to sad music, even when we’re happy’, highlighting the latest insights emerging from cutting-edge research and how these are helping people to understand their deep emotional connection to music. Meanwhile, acoustician and engineer Duncan Williams and his team at Salford University are investigating the way that certain kinds of music affects bodies and minds.Dr. Steven Leech at the launch of ‘Turn It Up: The Power of Music’ at the Science and Industry Museum, Manchester - 19th October 2022. Credit Drew Forsyth

Leech says: “I’m delighted that this exhibition is helping audiences to explore science in new ways. As someone who has grown up in the city, I’m also really proud that this deep dive into music is premiering here. The pioneering and playful nature of the exhibition perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Manchester.”


Main image courtesy of The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum Group

Turn It Up: The power of music is at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester until May 21, 2023. Tickets can be booked through the museum’s website.