"Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll" Exhibit Opens at the Met This Week

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is set to open a new exhibition this week featuring an extraordinary collection of famous instruments and memorabilia from the annals of rock music. Organized in conjunction with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Met has described Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll as "The first major exhibition in an art museum dedicated entirely to the iconic instruments of rock and roll."

On view to the public starting on April 8, the exhibition seeks to illustrate the cultural impact and legacy of rock music using over 130 instruments dating from 1939 to 2017. According to the Met, the collection will demonstrate how rock musicians used and personalized their instruments to create the musical and visual identity of the genre, and will allow visitors to get up close and personal with some of the most notable rock instruments of all time.

Noted specimens on display include Jimi Hendrix’s “Love Drops" Flying V, Keith Richards' Micawber Telecaster, Eric Clapton’s “Blackie," Eddie Van Halen’s original “Frankenstein," Jerry Garcia’s "Wolf," Joan Jett’s Gibson Melody Maker, and Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Number One" Strat. With a timeline that spans to the present, the Met is also displaying instruments from more recently anointed rockstars such as Annie Clark, Tom Morello, and Jack White.

In addition to these and other landmark guitars, "Play It Loud" also includes a number of horns (such as Clarence Clemons' tenor sax), drumsets, complete touring rigs, and historic posters.

According to a preview in Billboard, the show takes a generally "less-is-more approach," presenting the instruments as art pieces with some thematic groupings. This preview also notes that while, like classic rock itself, the list of musicians featured in the show remains male-dominated, the organizers do acknowledge this fact in their accompanying literature, possibly in response to criticisms raised by Neko Case and others when the show was first announced last year.

And of course, like any institution that seeks to create a canonical overview of something as passion-driving as rock instruments, many are sure to find flaws and key omissions from the Play It Loud catalog. Kinks guitarist Dave Davies, for instance, took to Twitter this week to lament the exclusion of his guitars, noting the significance of "You Really Got Me" on the history of loud guitar music.

If you're in New York, you can visit the exhibit from April 8 to October 1. For a closer look at what Play It Loud has in store, check out this interactive page on the Met's website or this catalog of exhibited instruments.

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