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Travel to the Music

Even people who can’t play a note will find a trip to the Musical Instrument Museum a fascinating exploration of music, cultures and instruments.  A new museum near Scottsdale in Northern Phoenix, Arizona, it is not quite six months old.  The facility itself shows vision, with large spacious galleries, engaging displays and musical instruments of every description – everywhere.

When you arrive, you pay your admission fee ($15 per person for adults) and are handed a set of headphones with a transmitter.  Unlike some museums, the music follows you.  No need to turn the receiver on or off if you arrive at a display and your timing is off.

Gorgeous inlaid floor with the continents - entrance to a Mim gallery

The customer service people suggest that you start with the first floor display, which has an array of guitars, a massive chime –(see last week’s blog for an image of the giant boat-like gong).

Next, head upstairs where the exhibit halls are arranged by continent.  The United States and Canada displays are housed in one large area and contain exhibits, screens with music that repeat with the performances heard through your headphones, and displays that show everything from a piano being skillfully constructed by Steinway craftspeople to Bluegrass music being energetically performed.

Amazing craftsmanship goes into constructing every piano (Steinway)

It is a dizzying and convincing parade of musical instruments that does convey the sense that music is truly the one unifying concept of the human race.

Many countries have their own versions of bagpipes

Take bagpipes.  You might think that they’d be in a display in the Scottish area.  They are, but it appears that many different cultures and countries have their own versions of bagpipes, too.

Every country has an exhibit of musical instruments, augmented with a performance that you can see on screen and hear with your headphones.   The color and array is exhausting and exhilarating to behold.  Junkanoo in the Bahamas and all manner of colorful and well-crafted instruments catch your attention.

Junkanoo in the Bahamas is a colorful pageant with steel drums

Downstairs – The modern masters

In addition to live performances, MIM has a hall with some pop, rock, jazz and other favorites on loan.  See the piano that John Lennon composed “Imagine” on, along with a video of him singing  “Imagine” and breaking out of the melodic line to editorially intone – in a deeper voice – “and I’m not the only one” (referring to  the desire for peace).  It gave me shivers!

John Lennon's piano on which he composed "Imagine" and a video of him playing

Eric Clapton performs several songs on video and you can see his instruments while you listen.  Carlos Santana, the Jonas Brothers, the Black-Eyed Peas, Paul Simon, George Benson and many others are all represented.  George Benson’s Platinum record for “Breezin’” is on display, along with Eric Clapton’s Fender – his “Brownie.”

Carlos Santana highlighted

Although we were tired after about three hours, we could have stayed twice as long.  There was so much to see and hear!

Transport yourself to MIM and you’ll spend an exciting and inspiring time.  All ages can enjoy the museum and there’s even a room to try the instruments.  Adults and children were banging on the drums and trying out the chimes.

Joey Wan enjoyed trying out the Gamelan, a xylophone

Note: There are video screens in most galleries that, using the headphones every visitor is loaned, start playing in the headphone when a visitor is near that particular exhibit.

MIM – the Musical Instrument Museum has a gift shop, a café (which prides itself on using “fresh local ingredients”), a coffee shop, and spaces for performances.  A great place to visit!

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One Response to “Travel to the Music”

  1. Evancho Jackie Says:

    You really know how to grab people attention because when I started to read I wanted to know what will be in the end.

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