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Beyond the Beat: Interactive exhibition showcases how music has amplified change

Blockbuster exhibition opens Friday, February 2; media preview Tuesday, January 30

Two visitors, seen from behind, view a series of exhibition panels that show a large crowd at a rock concert. Partially obscured.

News release details

What do dazzling stage outfits from Elton John and Elisapie, Neil Young’s tuneful harmonica, Tegan Quin’s plastic air organ, Redbone’s Gold Record and a video of Public Enemy’s defiant “Fight the Power” have in common? These and scores of other artifacts and performance pieces are part of the new exhibition Beyond the Beat: Music of Resistance and Change, opening in the Level 1 gallery on Friday, February 2 at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR).

The blockbuster exhibition invites visitors inside ground‐breaking moments when music played an instrumental role in social transformation and political change.

“Beyond the Beat recognizes the activism and revolutionary art of artists who have shaped human rights movements across North America,” says Matthew Cutler, Vice‐President of Research and Exhibitions. “It showcases the power of music to both reject injustice and embody our highest ideals and aspirations for a better world.”

Media are invited to attend a special preview of the exhibition on Tuesday, January 30 between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Curators will be on hand for interviews and to share in‐depth information on artifacts, process and stories.“

Music is one of the most recognizable ways that individuals and groups share their beliefs and opinions, express dissent and imagine new ways of being,” says Julia Peristerakis, the lead curator for Beyond the Beat. She led a team of curators and researchers as they collected, developed and refined content from across more than six decades. Artifacts have been sourced from a variety of places, including the National Music Centre in Calgary, the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, and from many artists themselves.

One section of the exhibition traces how Black communities have used music to raise awareness about racial injustice and unite people in the struggle for equality, from the anthems of the American civil rights movement to Black Lives Matter to hip hop in Canada today.

Another looks at how women demanded R‑E‐S‐P‐E‐C‑T and broke down barriers through their concerted efforts, and how music has underscored the fight for equality for 2SLGBTQI+ people.

The “Resurgence” section of the exhibition celebrates Indigenous excellence in the world of music.

“The vast range of phenomenal music by Indigenous artists available to us today is not only a sign of its popularity but also a telling statement about the resurgence of our ways of knowing, being and doing,” says Felix Berry, a curator at the CMHR. With the guidance of the Indigenous Music Advisory Committee and countless others, Berry cared for this section of the exhibition that speaks to joy and remembrance.

Beyond the Beat also examines how music – from folk songs to punk rock – has given voice to the injustices faced by working‐class people and built solidarity within labour and environmental movements.

“Governments have tried to censor music and suppress people from performing or listening to particular genres or songs that challenge norms or call out human rights violations because music is powerful,” Peristerakis says. “We wanted to capture that power and tell those stories in many different ways—and we wanted the experience to be dynamic, interactive and inspirational.” 

Interactivity is built into the exhibition. Insight stations, linked to artifacts or other content, can be activated to provide visitors with dramatic, even unexpected “wow” moments using video, audio, or static content. 

Visitors to Beyond the Beat receive a free handheld RFID disc. Similar in usage to “tap‐to‐pay” technology, the discs let visitors tap to interact with multiple sensors and delve deeper into the stories and ideas behind their favourite artists or discover new ones. The recyclable discs, available in English or French, can be taken home and feature a QR code linked to a downloadable playlist, so visitors can keep experiencing the music.

Beyond the Beat: Music of Resistance and Change is open to the public in the Level 1 gallery from February 2, 2024 to September 29, 2024. More information is available at:

Media Preview Opportunity

What: Media are invited to attend a special preview of Beyond the Beat: Music of Resistance and Change, shoot footage and interview curators.

Where: Level 1 Gallery, Canadian Museum for Human Rights 

When: Tuesday, January 30 between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. 

Please confirm your attendance and the time you expect to arrive with Leslie Vryenhoek:; 204–979-5629

Media contacts

Leslie Vryenhoek (she/her)