Schubert Club Music Museum

Nestled in Landmark Center, downtown St Paul, MN, the Schubert Club museum holds a world-class collection of historic keyboards, original letters and manuscripts of famous composers, and musical instruments from around the world. The Schubert Club also has a commitment to bringing high quality, affordable concerts to local guests as well as teaching inspiring musicians.

Client: Outhouse Exhibit Services and Schubert Club

Role: Interactive Media Designer and Developer. Percussion expert.

The entire exhibit is divided into two sections, each feeling like an entirely different exhibit.

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Music Makers Zone

Tornado

Primary Goal: Here visitors interact with exhibits from across the globe. All instruments are fully touchable. Visitors are encouraged to try a new instrument for the first time or dive deeper into existing knowledge. This exhibit embraces a cacophony of sounds, encouraging easily accessible moments hands-on with instruments.

At the entrance, visitors are wowed by the two-story tornado of instruments from around the world. Although it makes a memorable impact at the start of the experience, visitors wanted to know more. What were the names of certain instruments? Where were they from? How do they sound? Could I play it? We strove to answer all of these questions with a touchscreen-based interactive.

To answer the first questions about what the instruments were, we took inspiration from the Infinite Drum Machine. We asked, instead of using your eyes, what if you could search the tornado with your ears? As visitors move their fingers across the touchscreen, they hear short sounds of each instrument. Discovery sounds in plucks, blips, hits, strums, and blows. Each hit reveals the instrument’s name, origin, and a brief description on the sidebar. For some visitors, this experience alone was captivating enough.

But we wanted to give visitors more. What does the instrument sound like? For each instrument, we offer a short track performed by a master musician, showcasing the best of the instrument. Then we added a 5-key keyboard so visitors can play the instrument themselves. We choose a pentatonic scale matching the master musician so the visitor could never hit a bad note. We wanted to give an approachable experience for musicians and non-musicians alike.

Keyboard Experience

This area is designed for the introverts. The rest of the space is filled with sound, noise, and intentional chaos. But in this back room, lights are dimmed, and music is contained in headphones instead of speakers. Sitting in solo or pairs at a bench, visitors use a keyboard and touchscreen to learn how to play the keyboard. Lessons walk visitors through learning without fear of others hearing your mistakes. For those who already know the keyboard, this provides an opportunity to practice or show off to one friend or family member.

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Keyboard Journey

Primary Goal: Here visitors explore the finest specimens of instruments in the Schubert Clubs collection, including harpsichords, pianos, organs, and other keyboard instruments. Because these instruments cannot be touched, the Schubert Club wanted the instruments to come alive with sounds and sights of performance.

This gallery is broken up into four distinct rooms, each a different era of keyboard innovation. Beginning in the 1500s, the journey ends in the late 20th Century with electric keyboards.

Centerpiece

Each of the four rooms contain multiple keyboards, but one is highlighted as a centerpiece. If visitors only experience one, they should see the centerpiece. At the push of a button, a large screen video plays filling the room with sound. Visitors see the exact same keyboard in a performance from a master musician. The camera fades from wide shots, to close-ups of keyboard fingering and the inner mechanical workings of the instrument. The attract screen before the button press features algorithmically generated art and motion.

Audio Posts

Additional keyboards in the same room come to life with a simple push button at a post. Speakers hidden under each keyboard play music recorded on each keyboard. As sound begins, visitors heads instantly turn towards the keyboard and hidden speaker, as if the keyboard came to life on its own.