Experience Montreal’s MMFA REVOLUTION 60s exhibit through immersive audio

Many museums have exhibitions that take you back hundreds and thousands of years. Wouldn’t it be cool to take a trip back to the late 1960s, times of great change and social upheaval that molded where we are today and see the sights and hear the sounds of that period? Now imagine them both combined through a curated exhibition with a personal immersive audio experience.  That’s what the Revolution Exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is all about.

The title of this exhibition is no doubt taken from The Beatles’ 1968 song Revolution, credited to Lennon-McCartney but actually composed by the late John Lennon.

It’s part of the official programming for Montreal’s 375th birthday, originating at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England. It’s made up of over 700 objects ranging from books, photos and albums to clothing, art and many consumer products that were conceived or originated in the late 1960s. It’s a trip through that period expressed in film, fashion, design, as well as activism and of course, music. The MMA version also includes art, music, artifacts and audio-visuals of famous events unique to Canada and Quebec and its culture.


Unique Audio Experience

For audiophiles and technology enthusiasts, what really sets this exhibition apart is not only seeing futuristic designs and some early tech creations, but also the overall experience enhanced by the audio soundscape created by the use of Sennheiser’s wireless guidePort and AMBEO 3D audio technologies.

Synced Audio-Visual

Upon arrival at the museum, a cheerful host guides you to a counter where racks of Sennheiser Audio Guides are charging and waiting for you to pick up. The guide resembles a Walkman. But it’s no simple mp3 player. It’s a wireless device, a receiver, with decent quality headphones that’s part of the Sennheiser guidePort system. As you walk though the exhibit the system is ready and waiting to simultaneously deliver hundreds of stereo feeds personalized and triggered depending on where you are in the exhibit delivering synchronized music and sound and visuals relevant to the content you’re seeing. Even better, is that you also get real-time lip-synced audio.  So whether you’re watching the political activists marching for civil rights or John Lennon and Yoko Ono from their bed-in at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel in 1968, what you hear is synced with what you see no matter where you are in the exhibit.

The musical odyssey expands beyond The Beatles. You’ll hear tunes by the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, the Doors, Jefferson Airplane as well as homegrown artists like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Michel Pagliaro, Robert Charlesbois and more.

Woodstock in 14.1 Audio

When you think of the late 60s it’s hard not to think of Woodstock, an experience all of its own and for this exhibit it’s no different. Picture yourself sitting in one of a small handful of beanbag chairs at the foot of a mega movie screen. Just in front, is Keith Moon’s (The Who) Drum kit and you’re watching larger than life concert footage. Around the room are original stage costumes copies, instruments, even copies of set lists and contracts and what you’re hearing is almost better than being there.

The amazing Woodstock soundtrack is delivered through the Sennheiser AMBEO 14.1 audio system. To get ultra high quality sound, which really didn’t exist back in that day, two-channel, 24-bit, 192 kHz, .wav files were created from the original analog Woodstock film. Then using an upmix algorithm, which more or less separates direct and ambient sounds they were converted to 3D. To get what we were hearing, the nine-channel output was further refined and played back through 14 strategically positioned Neumann KH 420 midfield loudspeakers while the low frequencies where channeled to four Neumann KH 870 subwoofers for added bass.

I could have stayed all day in the beanbag chair but thought it would be a kind gesture to give someone else an opportunity, plus there was more to see.

Gadgets & More

Other cool gadgets include a plastic metal Videosphere Television set by the Victor Company of Japan (JVC) that looks like an astronauts helmet; a replica of the first mouse (1964) by Douglas Engelbart and although it may be more of a 70’s thing there is the original Apple I sans wooden box.

There’s some funky designer glasses – something that Elton John would wear; a Campbell Soup can, paper dress, chairs that look like they came right out of a Jetson’s cartoon and a plethora of art from artists like Andy Warhol, Sue Palmer, Peter Klasen as well as from the MMFA’s own collection some of which include Gilles Boisvert, Clara Gutsche and Jacques Hurtubise.


There was also no end of memorabilia, concert posters, Expo ’67 materials, Polaroid’s of Andy Warhol and the camera he used and hundreds more.

Full Circle

The journey back in time ends where it all started – under the Revolution sign where just below, encases in glass were a number of outfits worn by John Lennon including the infamous Sgt. Pepper costume.

Experience the Revolution

Overall the REVOLUTION exhibit was a great experience and whether you’re eight or eighty or remember the 60’s or not because there’s something for everyone. There was the odd hiccup with the audio, but then again we went mid summer in the middle of a Sunday afternoon – likely one of the busiest times where up to 700 audio guides could each be delivering a plethora of feeds.

As for walking the exhibit, you can take a long as you like. You could whip through it all in 30-45 minutes, but I’d suggest if you really want to take your time and take it all in, allow yourself at least 90 minutes up to 2 hours.

You can catch the Revolution at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It runs daily until October 9th, 2017, which happens to be John Lennon’s birthday.

Tickets are only $23. There are discounts for those under 30 and free for kids 12 and under when accompanied by an adult. There’s also special pricing on Wednesdays after 5 PM.

For more information and tickets visit www.mbam.qc.ca/en/. Your ticket also gives you additional viewing privileges for other exhibits like Jean Paul Gaultier’s Love is Love, also worth seeing.

Photos by Greg Gazin, courtesy MMFA.

Music written and performed by dGiddy – Dan Gideon


Greg Gazin is the Real Canadian Gadget Guy, Columnist, Speaker, Podcaster & Author

Technology – Entrepreneurship – Communications

Follow me on Twitter @gadgetgreg


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