Fascinating exhibition celebrating 50 years of Pink Floyd, Their Mortal Remains, at the Victoria and Albert Museum – feeling comfortably numb, in a good way!

Immersive exhibitions seem to be all the rage but the V&A really do know how to put on a show and The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains is a cracker.  With the earphones on, you push through the heavy doors to this show and enter a world of psychedelia, alternative culture and amazing musical originality.

When I was young I didn’t really ‘get’ Pink Floyd. I think I was too distracted by the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel and the lure of pop music on the radio.  But clearly I was missing the evolution of highly conceptual and adventurous contemporary composition.

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The new show at the V&A mingles exhibits of instruments with lyrics scrawled on paper, paintings, photographs, animation and artefacts from their sensational shows.  It’s 50 years since Pink Floyd gave their first ground-breaking concert at Queen Elizabeth Hall on the SouthBank.  As the show’s curator, Victoria Broackes, explained at the press preview, this band was not content with just standing on the stage and making music, they wanted to create an experience which combined music, theatre, design and performance.  I feel rather sorry I never got to experience any of these early shows.

The earphones know exactly where you are in the exhibition so it’s possible to listen to the constant soundtrack of their music and also the interviews.  I was fascinated to hear about the band’s ‘noodling’, the expression they used for their improvised music making.  This evolved through the imaginative and exploratory use of the new technology which was being developed at the time – synthesizers, filters, oscillators and using their instruments unconventionally, such as the  ‘backwards guitar’, to create futuristic sounds which came to define the 1970s.

I went into the show a curious spectator and emerged as a fully devoted Pink Floyd fan. The show is on until 1 October.

 

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