by Linita E. Mathew

    The National Music Center: Opening Our Eyes To The Beauty Of Music

    Whenever writer’s block seems to creep up on me, I take a moment and engage in an activity to get my flow back: playing the drums. From the moment my foot hits the pedal and my sticks hit the kit, the direction of my thinking has already changed. I notice how my body begins to react with the beat I am playing. A slower beat causes my body to relax, while a faster pace awakens a rush of adrenaline. The more patterns and fills I play, the sharper my focus becomes. As they say, drummers can easily tune into the natural rhythms of life. Within fifteen minutes, my brain is fully activated as my mind shifts gears to bring forward clarity and creativity. And now, that my rhythms are in sync, I am ready to sit down and write.

    The power of music influences us all on a daily basis. In fact, it is one of the few activities that engage both hemispheres of the brain at the same time! Our sense of sound is brought alive and moves beyond simple beats and patterns of rhythm, engaging each one of us with a different intensity. For many, it can be responsible for creating changes at a biological, psychological, or even spiritual level. Many studies have chosen to observe, research, and discuss the potential of these affects; specifically focusing on the role music plays in advancing brain development.

    Research now supports that those who play a musical instrument are impacted through speech perception, the ability to understand emotions in the voice, and the ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. When music touches our lives in so many ways, it is important to understand it, sustain it and further our own potential to create it. In the spring of 2016, Calgary will become Canada’s home for nourishing musical talent, as our city inaugurates the grand opening of the National Music Centre; one of the greatest celebrations of music to date.

    The vision for the city’s highly anticipated music centre is clear: to be a national catalyst for discovery, innovation, and renewal through music. When lead architect Brad Cloepfil and Allied Works Architecture envisioned the design of the 160,000 square-foot building, they decided to fuse the intricate composition of musical instruments with Canadian iconic landscapes. Inspiration was taken from “the cadence of waves to the lullaby of lake shores, from the silence of the prairies to the echo of the arctic, and the energy and diversity of Canada’s urban spaces.” The body of the building joins nine towers which rise together and merge into curves that are filled with a multitude of elements that honour and appreciate the diversity of music culture.

    The NMC is not only considered a museum that contains over 2,000 artifacts with five floor exhibitions, but it also has the country’s most comprehensive collection of musical instruments and sound equipment. One such rarity is the infamous Tonto, a world-renown synthesizer brought from New York. The centre will encompass a residency program, an acoustic and electronic sounds lab, a broadcasting facility, an education centre, three recording studios, and a performance space that seats three hundred people. It is no wonder that Brad and his team have recently received their second international design award for mastering excellence and innovation!

    Visitors will have the pleasure of embracing a full on music festival experience in one astonishing centre. “NMC’s unique and extensive collection of instruments, artifacts, and memorabilia will share Canada’s music story with visitors from around the world, and inspire a new generation of musicians and music lovers.”

    The foundation of the NMC is based on four pillars: education, exhibitions, incubation, and performance. Education represents the rich history behind music culture and stimulates active inquiry among artists to show the influence that music has on human development. Students are encouraged to further their own knowledge of music as an academic subject.

    The second pillar, exhibitions, furthers this knowledge by providing students with a ‘living collection’ of stories and rare memorabilia that help sustain Canadian roots in music. The compilation of exceptional material is used to promote innovation in music through the use of technology. Incubation revolves around the Artist-in-Residence program unique to the NMC. This type of learning is a more practical and a hands-on experience that allow artists to foster creativity in isolated spaces. This helps musicians to form more intimate relationships with the sounds and function of each instrument.

    By providing uninterrupted access to the centre’s collections and equipment, the ambition is to render masterful pieces and bring them to life. And lastly, the fourth pillar is established through the art of performance. The NMC provides both local and international thriving artists multiple platforms to showcase their artistic talent in public. A most notable feature of this pillar is the restoration project of Calgary’s own historic King Edward Hotel which is already being praised.

    The National Music Centre is already open to the public for tours on Sundays. The centre is a promising passage into a deep understanding and acknowledgement of Canadian music culture. It is exciting to think that by 2016, the NMC will open its doors and liven our city to a whole new world of music appreciation.

    Linita E. Mathew

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