Opt for the $3 audio player (or download the music for your iPod at www.sonicscenery.com/ ) and the answer to the question … Well, unless you bring in noise cancellation headphones, the answer is still: lots of children talking loudly (hint: go post-field trip time). But, it's also newly commissioned work by Ozomatli, Autolux and Jon Hassell.
Head-slapping-forehead simplistic in concept – invite a myriad of musicians to compose works specific to 10 of the museum's halls – the result is stunningly complex, providing fresh ways of seeing stagnant history. For the newly restored African Mammals Hall, infrared sensors inform the audio player to begin Jon Hassel's looping of two Masai tribesmen conversing in Swahili, so one hears their seeming psalm to their native land while viewing taxidermy-d hippos.
Matmos, for the North American Mammal Hall, take a more direct approach: meandering counterclockwise through the exhibit, the group composed 17 “cells” (one for each diorama) with a combination of harmonicas, banjos and field recordings (seagulls, antler-on-antler violence). According to iTunes, the top download of all the pieces is Ozamatli's “Tickle Me!” which accompanies animals you'd likely not want to pet – Cenozoic Mammals. Upbeat and jazzy, the music seems apt for viewing those other mammals running rampant through the museum: the schoolchildren tickled by the exhibits.
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is located at 900 Exposition Blvd., in Los Angeles. Hours: Mon.-Fri. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. & Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $9 for adults, $6.50 for students, free on the first Tuesday of every month. For more information, call (213) 763-3466 or visit www.nhm.org.