London exhibition on Scottish Celts slated for “excruciating” pan pipe music


A LONDON museum has been slated by visitors for using “cliche” pan pipe music during its latest Celtic exhibition.

The British Museum said it intended to give visitors an immersive experience into the heritage of the Celts – the tribe which ruled Scotland some 1,200 years ago.

But instead they have received complaints describing the music as “excruciating”, resembling “Classic FM syndrome” and, “the kind of thing you would listen to on a long drive to calm you down.”

Former gallery director of the National Portrait Gallery, Sir Roy Strong, has even described the music as being “foisted on you whether you like it or not.”

The exhibition – titled Celts: Arts and Identity – is running in London’s British Museum from September to January.

An example of a Celtic horned helmet
An example of a Celtic horned helmet


The project has been organised with the National Museum of Scotland – borrowing many of their artefacts and exhibitions on the Celts.

But whilst the exhibition itself has been praised, the music has not struck a chord with most visitors.

Visitors have also been venting their irritation through Twitter.

Laura Hutchinson wrote: “Great exhibition, gorgeous objects (if you like torcs), shame about the pan-pipe music!”

Mark Iliff posted: “Good but take ear plugs…music excruciating.”

Luke Turner, editor of online music magazine, The Quietus, said: “The music felt like a real cliché of what you’d imagine Celtic music to be.

“It was like a ‘Celtic Moods’ CD – The kind of thing you might listen to on a long drive to calm you down.

“There are people who devote their lives to researching very early music and I thought it was a bit of a shame not to have brought that in.”

Julie Farley, the curator of Celts: Arts and Identity, said that the idea was to give it a “relaxed atmosphere” but has described the event as “a bit of a Marmite thing.”

She said: “Some people love it and some people hate it. I’ve had some people emailing me asking if they can buy it. Other people have said they’re not that keen.

“Even if you can’t please everybody, it helps people relax and engage with its objects rather than feeling that it’s somewhere you’re not allowed to talk.

“It can feel like a church space.

“When we first planned it, I thought it was too melancholy so we asked them to strip out some of the layers of music.”

Stuart Frost, head of interpretation for the museum, said that the response from focus groups was mostly positive although some objected to one particular piece.

He said: “It had a little bit of wind whistling across the plateau and we had a couple of comments from people saying it made them feel chilly.”