Tuesday, June 1, 2010

the MIM (Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, AZ) 1/4

Two early violins, one muted, one amplified

The MIM, or Musical Instrument Museum, opened on April 24th of this year in Phoenix and I stopped by for a visit last weekend. All I can say is wow! What a great concept, a collection of musical instruments from cultures all across the world.

The musical instruments are organized by country and many of the exhibits have a video showing short clips of the musical instruments being played. You are issued a pair of wireless headphones at the admission desk and as you walk up to an exhibit the audio fades up, and as you walk away it fades down until you enter the range of another exhibit. This let you focus on the exhibit you are looking at without hearing background sounds from other exhibits -- worked great!

The overall museum is 190,000 square feet on two floors (about 70,000 of which is exhibit space). There is also a 299 seat musical theatre where concerts can be scheduled, a cafe, coffee shop, and plenty of space for research, restoration, storage, etc. Overall, a $250 million dollar project driven by the former CEO of Target, Bob Ulrich.

There are currently over 10,000 global musical instruments on display in well lit, friendly spaces. I was especially impressed that they did not hide things behind glass -- the vast majority of instruments are just out of reach, with nothing between you and it, and plenty of security people watching the floors to make sure things don't get touched.

Adult admission is $15. About 30 minutes into what turned into a 4 & 1/2 hour visit, I was already thinking it was well worth it. Ok, ok, I'm an engineer, a musician, enjoy music, culture, and art -- so I reeeaally enjoyed it on many levels.

There is no way my pictures or words can really convey the experience, quality, or quantity of the exhibits. If you live in Arizona, I highly recommend a visit. Its a very well done museum and claims to be the first global Musical Instrument Museum which also makes it perhaps a little more unique than some other fine museums of art or culture.

Remember the incredible scene of hundreds of drummers hitting lit drums at the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony? This is one of them. You can see all the LEDs surrounding the center square drum. A video loop showed the drums in use during the ceremony with great audio to the wireless headphones.

An exhibit showing an early Martin Guitar workshop. Don't worry, Fender fans, they were well represented too!

A lot of us have seen or seen pictures of player pianos that played music from a roll of punched hole music. Well this is one of the "master" pianos used to punch those rolls. Since these were kind of backroom hacks, its a kick to see a normal piano adapted to this use by driving screws into it, running wire contacts to drive solenoids, etc.

The large exhibit spaces are broken up nicely, making it easy to move around, but challenging to snap a picture showing how large the overall space is.

I've seen walking cane flutes before, but a violin?!

A harpsichord designed to stay out of the way

I was kind of surprised how many countries have versions of ducted flutes

Lots of instruments that would be art in their own right, even if they hadn't been designed to make beautiful sounds.

I'll post more pictures over the next few days to share some of the visual experience with those of you too far to visit. If you are within visiting range, I really recommend you visit the MIM, its really a great museum. Plan to spend some time there, its very big with tons to see. I'll be back for sure.

The MIM is located in northern Phoenix, just a mile or so east of where highways 101 and 51 cross -- very easy to get to with no major large city hassles regarding traffic, parking, or security.

Here's the press release of the opening with additional background.

1 comment:

  1. What a cool museum! I like that things are not behind glass and that you get to wear headphones and see videos of the instruments being played. So many beautiful and unusual musical instruments. I'm glad you posted this, I'm sure my family will enjoy going there.


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