New exhibits at the Science Centre

It’s not every day that you’re able to compose music with the help of an internationally known band. But from now until March 10, you can produce music with Montreal’s very own Simple Plan. They are virtual hosts of Musik: From Sound to Emotion, the new exhibit at the Montreal Science Centre (MSC).

You don’t need to know music theory or how to play an instrument to enjoy this new exhibit. All you need is a touch-screen digital music player that is provided on site. At seven different composing stations, you can select the emotion of your musical piece, its rhythm, melody, accompaniments and timbres and along the way get advice (that has been recorded) from the band members. Once completed, you can share your music with other visitors on the Jukebox of Emotions, post it to the Montreal Science Centre’s website and also e-mail it to yourself, family and friends.

“When we were brainstorming new ideas, music was an obvious choice. It’s universal, touches everyone and is really important to kids,” said Louise Julie Bertrand, manager of development and production programming at the MSC. “Our target audience is 8- to 14-year-olds. Music is relevant to kids and particularly teenagers because they identify themselves by the kind of music they listen to and it also defines whom they hang out with.”

Simple Plan, who have a foundation that supports kids in need and those with life-threatening illnesses, are spotlighted at the end of the exhibit. They were brought on board because, as Bertrand states, “they represent all the concepts that are discussed and showcased at Musik.”

Scientists from BRAMS, the International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research that is based here and is associated with McGill University and Université de Montréal, and other universities helped design the exhibit. They are featured in videos explaining how music affects emotions.

“Montreal is known for its research of music and neurology, so we thought that it would be cool to talk about this because it’s specific to our city,” Bertrand explained.

The Science Centre hasn’t forgotten about entertaining younger kids. It recently opened a permanent exhibit dedicated exclusively to children aged 4 to 7 called Clic!

In this space, children are exposed to different themes, creativity, colour, construction, shapes and forms through the use of various elements. They can explore and help build a large house onto which styrofoam pieces can be inserted, create colourful mosaics on a magnetic board, discover how combining primary colours create secondary ones or watch how their movements are transformed on to a large screen when captured by a motion sensor.

Clic! is an opportunity to have a positive experience related to science in a museum setting at a young age. It’s planting seeds early on so that they don’t feel intimidated by science or the centre when they’re older,” Bertrand said.

On the surface, this exhibit may appear to be just a playroom but it’s much more than that; children put the scientific method to use.  They’re placed in situations where they have to learn through intuition (the exhibit is devoid of instructions), trial and error, and repetition until they obtain the result they want. The best example is the roller coaster, where kids have to decide how to place tracks together in order to direct a ball to the place they want it to reach.

“Kids are having fun, they’re playing,” Bertrand said. “But sub-consciously they’re learning at the same time.  They’re being challenged both physically and intellectually. So they’re putting their brain to use and developing new capacities.”

For more information on these exhibits, visit www.montrealscience.com.