Hank Williams wails about "your cheatin' heart" over the pop strains of Britney Spears singing " ... Baby One More Time," as Jimi Hendrix's piercing guitar fades into the background.
As the ears become more accustomed to this assault, people can turn their attention to the exhibits. They find out "Cheatin' Heart" was based on Williams' rocky marriage and are reminded that Spears usually employs other songwriters to write her music.
These songs and displays are part of the Electric Bus, a roving exhibit sponsored by the Seattle-based Experience Music Project, the nation's foremost music museum.
The bus began its four-day stopover in Chapel Hill at the Smith Center parking lot Monday.
Senior Joel Sink made the trip to South Campus after hearing about the bus in class. "I'm in `History of Rock,' and our professor really encouraged us to come," he said.
UNC students were not alone in enjoying the bus. Raleigh parent Lara Pugliese brought her son Shaunaka. "It's highly educational," she said, in between asking a crew member about doo-wop and singing along to "The Loco-motion."
Songs, songwriters and the songwriting process are the experience's focus. Two tents feature wall exhibits and looped videos on songs' origins and impacts. These topic divisions make for strange musical bedfellows, as "Rock Around the Clock" is followed by "Like a Virgin" as part of the Songs of Youth exhibit.
A demo stage is used for school presentations and lectures. At 1 p.m. today, UNC music Professor John Covach will speak about The Beatles.
The presentations center around songwriting, with two large boards covered with various magnetic poetry sets used in lyrical composition. One corner reads, "Why throw concrete/smear winter on summer."
Song Lab is the most popular area. Consisting of booths with multiple sets of headphones, it offers a chance to learn about and participate in the various aspects of a recording.
The keyboard booth appears to be the area of choice for couples; Sink cajoles his female companion, "You're the piano player, bust something out."
Chuckling as a machine warped his voice, freshman Amir Thomas said he prefers the Talking in Time booth. "You get to rap with songs and record yourself," he said.
Thomas spent more than an hour looking over the exhibits and plans to come back with friends. "It's just a great experience," he said.
The interactive music exhibits have quite an effect on users, crew member Andy Spletzer said. "It becomes its own world ... for those people, nothing else exists," he said.
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