When you’ve spent an hour in the special exhibit room and not even begun to tour the rest of the museum, you know you’ve found an amazing place.
In the middle of nowhere, surrounded by scrub desert on the far outskirts of Phoenix sits a large modern building housing an incredible collection of musical instruments. Arranged in sweeping rooms by continent and region, 10,000 instruments are exhibited in unprepossessing but thoughtful arrangements, complete with large flat-screen TVs strategically placed (not interfering with the exhibits) looping content about the close-by instruments: people making them, playing them, experts discussing the historic period in which they were created, etc.
It’s the Musical Instrument Museum, MIM. And it’s incredible.
Wearing wifi-connected headsets to roam through this incredible collection, you walk at your pace through the various regional rooms. Pausing before a TV automatically links your headset to that content – even though another TV with different content may be only 10-15 feet away. The directional and proximity capabilities of the system and antennae are amazing in and of themselves.
A pan flute from early China carved from stone. Wow. Just- wow. 5-thousand-year-old bone flutes. Who was the first guy who looked at a dead guy’s femur and said, “I can make a flute out of that,” and then did? (Same guy who first looked at an artichoke and said, “let’s eat that?”)
Wisely, a cafeteria is on-site – no way exists to do this collection justice in a few hours; not even a full day. After much of the morning we decided the only way to see this place is to pick a room – Africa, Middle East, America, etc. – and spend a few hours in that or those couple of rooms, and then to come back again for more. We have the advantage of being local. For out-of-towners coming to see MIM, plan at least a solid weekend for it. Wear comfortable shoes.
The TV content is so interesting one finds oneself moving from TV to TV, ignoring the instruments. Recognizing this, one focuses instead on the instruments – and later recognizes the content has been missed. Active focus is needed to appreciate the display and consume the A/V content – and the experience of both is real, comfortable, organic – not at all artificial.
Slowly walking through the large exhibit of African instruments “where music began,” one says, “OK, close the patent office, everything that can be done with drum or string has been done.” Then you turn a corner. Time to re-open the patent office. It’s amazing.
Pictures and murals and accompanying art work only enhance the instrument displays. Carved stone art of players in an ancient garden playing the instruments you’re viewing.
Aside from the patent office, one thing stands out. And the SJWs will hate this.
How do we in America become aware of the musical technology of other cultures? How do we hear, see, watch these instruments, their makers and those playing them in action? How do we have the time and money to build these fascinating museums to teach us about other cultures and capabilities – and then spend hours or days viewing them?
Through technology invented by Western Civilization and Dead White European Males. What WE invented. Film, audio and video recording. Radio. Air Conditioning and humidity control. The capitalism that created the wealth allowing these places to be constructed and the leisure time capitalism provides for us to go and learn.
Without the Western Civilization Democrats decry, no one, Democrats included, would ever know of the cultures they demand we multi. This was a “duh” moment and an epiphany for me. Just hadn’t thought of it that way before.
Among the artwork are some incredible buildings, castles, monasteries built into cliffs and peaks in China. How? Slave labor. These places could not be built today. Are the multicultural SJWs going to tear-down these amazing places, as they tear down remnants and reminders of slavery here?
But enough of the politics and civilization that, uniquely, travels outside itself to educate citizens about others. This is a truly amazing museum.
Have you ever thought that sticking some reeds into a gourd and sealing the inserts with clay moistened by spit, then sticking a fat, hollowed-out stick over the end of the reed and drilling a few finger holes would create a musical instrument? And that adjusting the reed length would alter the notes? That with half a dozen of these you have a village band? Live & learn…
Want to play a Steinway in the hall? Sit down and play. Want to see a video of a Steinway being manufactured, with the builders telling you about their work as they cast, string, carve and assemble one? It’s in the America section. Want to see an “exploded” Steinway hanging on cables? Yup.
If you have even a tiny bit of curiosity about instruments from bone flutes to electric guitars, from stone chimes tuned to particular notes, to early-Chinese cast bronze bells that will play two different tones depending on where the bell is struck – visit this museum.
Oh – and don’t forget to see the earliest Veg-O-Matic. (It slices! Dices! Makes julienne fries!)
Bored pulverizing coffee beans by beating them in a can with a stick? Make it musical:
Come on out and experience it. You’ll be glad you did.