Music has long been an agent for social change, inspiring masses and conveying messages of solidarity and hope. The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles has curated an exhibit that examines the role music has played in informing and inspiring social consciousness throughout American history.
Songs of Conscience, Sounds of Freedom, which was first on display at the Grammy Museum when it opened in Los Angeles in 2008 and has been updated, takes visitors on a sonic journey from the spirituals sung by enslaved people in America to the songs of the American Revolution. It runs until May 8 (museum is open every day, except Tuesdays).
The exhibit travels through the music and art that helped to instigate action during the Civil Rights Movement to the continued fight for racial justice in America today.
“Songs of Conscience, Sounds of Freedom returns to the Grammy Museum at a particularly relevant time,” said Bob Santelli, founding executive director and exhibit curator, in a press statement. “Although socially and politically conscious songs have healed and inspired generations throughout our history, it feels especially significant to showcase the power of song as a unifying force and agent of change in the midst of America’s current struggles for equality.”
During its 13-year history, the exhibit has seen updates that include the Black Lives Matter movement, songs that fight for LGBTQ+ rights, and how music from artists like H.E.R., Dave Specter, and Mickey Guyton continue the journey of using music as a catalyst for social change.
This year, Songs of Conscience, Sounds of Freedom will include The Sounds of Los Angeles, which looks at LA-based social movements and events that inspired protest songs. These movements include the Chicano Movement, the 1965 Watts Riots/Rebellion, the 1992 riots/uprising, and the city’s history of poverty and economic disparity, gang violence, and police corruption. Featured artists include Lalo Guerrero, Mark Guerrero, Frost, Kim Weston, Randy Savvy of Compton Cowboys, Chuck D, and more.
Songs of Conscience, Sounds of Freedom will also include “Song Spotlights,” which are individual video displays that feature artists talking about a specific socially conscious songs: Andra Day discusses Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit;" Noel Paul Stookey recalls the importance of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind;" and Ziggy Marley discusses his father’s song “Get Up, Stand Up.”