on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2018 8 Mai

MIM Museum, Phoenix AZ

von: Brian Whistler Filed under: Blog | TB | 3 Comments




A hidden gem, the Musical Instruments Museum is the most comprehensive museum of instruments in the world. The museum’s inventory is so large, there is only space to display about 1/2 of the 15,000 instruments in their entire collection.

I have no idea what this astounding museum is doing in Phoenix AZ, but it’s amazing not only in the breadth and scope of the collection, but in the ingenious way the museum presents the instruments and associated music.

On entry, the visitor is issued the usual headphones and sound producing box, except in actuality, there is nothing usual about it. Each exhibit has a large video screen, demonstrating the various instruments on display. Using Bluetooth technology, the moment the visitor stands in front of the exhibit, the sound of the video syncs to the headset. As soon as the user moves away, the sound fades down, until it’s reactivated by the next exhibit. It works seamlessly. These are high quality audio/video clips presented in stereo. Many are rare field recordings. There is almost no narration, except when the occasional scholar explains the historic significance of say, the Japanese Noh play, or sheds light on the wedding music of Tajikistan.



Downstairs one can spend hours exploring just the pop, rock, world and new music exhibits. This exhibit focuses on famous stars to represent certain genres or periods. It must’ve been difficult to decide which pop/rock star to pick to represent an entire musical genre or period within that genre. They do a pretty good job, but it’s simply impossible to decide who to pick for say, the entire 80s pop era. (They picked the Police.) Johnny Cash, The Carter family, Dolly Parton (and a few others)  for country. But why in God’s name pick The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band over The Band to represent the early roots of Americana? Oh well. Elvis of course, but also Duane Eddy and Roy Orbison. You’ll find John Lennon’s piano on display, as well as Pablo Casals’s cello, Clara Rockmore’s theremin (!) and a very cool exhibit on Kronos Quartet. (On the other hand, almost an entire wall devoted to Taylor Swift – Really?)

They also try to include various stars of popular world styles, such as Cuban music (Tito Puente,) Qwali music maestro, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, as well as sitar master, the late Ravi Shankar (and his daughter Anousha) for Indian music. In addition to the pop, world and classical stars, there’s an amazing room filled with historical orchestrions and other fascinating automated instruments built over the centuries.

There’s also an interactive room filled with instruments that one can touch and play.

But all of this is just the warmup to the main event, which is upstairs. The MIMs collection of world instruments is simply staggering. Divided by regions and broken up into countries, it’s a mind blowing experience. We started in Asia exploring Indonesian and other island cultures, dipping into China, Japan and India. The collection is simply too vast to see in a day: we never even got to the America’s, Europe or African collections! My partner called it the Louvre of musical instrument museums, and that about sums it up.

The museum also has an impressive and eclectic concert series as well.




This entry was posted on Dienstag, 8. Mai 2018 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Michael Engelbrecht:


    Much, much better than Emerson, Lake & Palmer

  2. Michael Engelbrecht:

    The Police?? Oh, I wasn‘t much around in the 80‘s.

  3. Jan Reetze:

    When in Phoenix, I know where to go then …

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