Entertaining "Crossroads" at the New Grammy Museum

Ever wonder how the Grammy award got its name? Or where musicians draw their inspiration from? These questions and more will be answered on Saturday, Dec. 6, when the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles opens its doors to the public.

Located on the corner of Olympic Blvd. and Figueroa St., the museum is part of the multi-billion dollar, four million square foot development called L.A. LIVE.

"The Grammy Museum has a wonderful address," said Robert Santelli, the executive director of the museum. "This is going to become, very quickly, the hub of pop culture. We're very happy to be here."

The museum was a $34-million project conceptualized by The Recording Academy. AEG carried out the Academy's vision by raising funds and constructing the unique four-level, 30,000 square foot complex.

The museum really begins on the fourth floor. Visitors are greeted by an 18-foot interactive media table, which looks like something out of a sci-fi movie.

"We're very interactive; we like to say we are 21st century in terms of concept," said Santelli. "We use multimedia and technology to help tell stories and help the visitor to dig deep into the music."

The "Crossroads" table allows visitor's to get a crash course in over 150 genres at the touch of a "button." Actually there are no buttons, the table uses VIP Foil, which is a reactive foil placed beneath the glass surface. Above the tables are projectors which receive information from the table when it is touched, and within seconds it sends down a corresponding image.

There are about 10 stations along the table with headphones so visitors can have a more personal and private experience. For each genre there are related songs, pictures and stories that define and describe the selected genre.

The museum certainly embraces the concept of interaction. There are several other exhibits like the "Crossroads" table. Also found on the fourth floor is the "Music Epicenters" exhibit. By using the museums touch-screen computer, equipped with headphones visitors can travel from New York to Los Angeles and everywhere in between and learn about the important places in music history from the 1880s to today.

Below, on the third floor, the museum takes interactivity to the next level. There are several booths that introduce the art of recording and mixing technology. Jermaine Dupri is the instructor inside the rap booth, not literally, but there is a video in which he explains the art of recording a rap song. Individuals can actually record themselves as they rap to a beat, which they can also create.

This level of interactivity is usually not found inside museums, and it is sure to make it a popular destination. However if the museum becomes too popular these interactive tools may be in high demand, which could cause some serious waiting times.

There are other ways to experience the museum beyond the interactive exhibits. The museum is host to over 300 unique music artifacts, which are peppered throughout the museum.

Proudly on display is Michael Jackson's white Hugo Boss suit that he wore on the cover of the Thriller album. Also on display are the fragments of Kurt Cobain's black Fender Stratocaster guitar from a 1992 concert.

There are also very intimate letters written by musicians. Memphis Slim, in a letter to the Recording Academy wrote: "You see this is the greatest thing that ever happen[ed] to me in my 40 years of professional music."

The priceless artifacts are sure to draw up feelings of inspiration and nostalgia for music lovers and historians alike.

Throughout the museum there are plenty of videos that display rare performances and interviews. On the second floor there is a 17-minute video, in a 200-seat sound stage, about the making of a Grammy moment.

"It gives an insight into what goes on at the Grammy Award," Santelli said. "It's quite moving and a lot of fun for people to watch."

Their current video, of the 50th Grammy Awards, features a behind-thescenes look at Beyonce meeting Tina Turner for the first time. The museum staff plans on keeping the video current with new Grammy moments. The video is used as a way to cap of the museum tour with a touching look at the Grammy Awards.

After the video, visitors are turned loose into a small gift shop, or they can go back and explore the museum a second time, because it would be very hard to see and hear it all in the first trip.

To add to the museums appeal it will offer a unique array of performances and lectures from musicians and industry professionals beginning in January.

"[The museum] begins its second life after 6 p.m. [the sound stage] becomes on the most exciting, intimate performing spaces and lecture spaces in the city," Santelli said.

Their first engagement is with Brian Wilson, on Jan. 15, Wilson will be participating in a Q&A and a live performance on stage. The NOKIA Plaza next to the museum will also be used by the museum to host live performances in the future.

For the price of admission, at $14.95, The Grammy Museum is probably the cheapest way to learn everything there is to know about the history of music, and the Grammy that awarded those who helped shape the music landscape of the United States.