By Liat Radcliffe
An art exhibit that appeals to your ears as well as your eyes? That's the gist of a new show called "Shhh..." at London's Victoria & Albert Museum.
The curators invited 10 artists and musicians to provide an audio accompaniment to the permanent collection of sculpture, furniture and fashion. When museum goers enter each room, infrared sensors trigger the matching track on their MP3 players — providing a creative new audio tour. In the Raphael gallery, the melodic voice of the Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser echoes in one's headset, accentuating the cavernous heights of the chapel-like room. In the Victorian bathroom, David Byrne of Talking Heads fame went for a more literal approach, flushing toilets and playing with the faucets. And as one waltzes through the gilded, ostentatious Norfolk House Music Room, British rapper Roots Manuva serves up a political message, railing against privilege with lyrics about the "young waiting for their inheritance checks." Even if some of the recordings are just distracting — in the Chinese Room, for instance, a 6-year-old girl describes her favorite pieces while the listener searches in vain for them among all the ornamental boxes, sculptures and vases--the show is a hit, offering a fresh, mood-altering take on an old museum's familiar collection.