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Musical Instrument Museum – country to country history of music in Phoenix by Ann Treacy
March 30, 2018, 12:41 am
Filed under: Arizona

Aine and I are in Phoenix visiting Grandpa. I’ll do a post on our visit and hiking and saguaros and maybe Aine’s steak, lobster and caviar dinner – but the visit to the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) seemed worth its own post.

First – it’s huge. When you check in, they give you headphones. As you walk through the galleries, the headphones pick up the music being played at each station of the exhibit. The theme is musical instruments throughout the ages. The rooms are broken up by continent, then mostly by countries. There are 200 stations.

The docent suggested we start with Africa since so much music stems from there. Then follow the trail – which is shaped like a j. (I assume he meant the letter – but I’m not that great at shapes.) Each station includes a number of instruments, maybe some costumes, masks or other regalia and a video that includes music from the featured area. I am tempted to post the 100 or so pictures I took. But I will keep it to my very favorites.

It’s kind of amazing to see types of instruments that you find everywhere – drums for example. Or scrapers, which were my favorites. Instruments where you just scrap one things against the other – be it fork across a cheese grater or Cheshire cat with the bamboo mohawk. I loved the bowed lutes, which I feel I don’t see around now. The closest thing I can think of is Paul Metzger playing banjo with a bow. There are also lots of variations on bagpipes – the creepiest, yet coolest, was the one made from calf skin. You can pick is out below – it looks just like it sounds.

I decided that if ankle rattles count as musical instruments that maybe I could learn to play or I’d maybe try a belt rattle – but maybe not the one made of goat hooves.

After the geographic tour (and partially in the US rooms) there are a number of famous people instruments. Highlights include – guitar and suit from Johnny Cash, bodhran signed by the Chieftains, Glen Campbell’s suit and guitar, Ravi Shankar’s sitar and Tito Puente’s drums (timbales).

I thought we’d be lucky to get two hours in at the museum – we went for almost three and then came back for a while after lunch!


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