Musical Instrument Museum – Phoenix, AZ

A few hours was not enough time to truly appreciate and absorb all that the Musical Instrument Museum had to offer, but we made a valiant effort to see and soak in as much as we possibly could. Since we had very little information about the museum before we arrived, we were overwhelmed by the breadth, depth and beauty of its collections. The museum is a nonprofit corporation with many foundation, individual and corporate sponsors, many with ties to music, entertainment and technology.

MIM boasts that is is the World’s only Global Musical Instrument Museum. According to its website, “MIM’s collection includes nearly 16,000 musical instruments and associated objects, approximately 6,500 of which are displayed at a time and include instruments from around two hundred countries and territories in the world.” The very reasonable admission charge includes a headphone set that provides music and information as you approach each display. MIM was founded by Robert J. Ulrich, former CEO and chairman emeritus of Target Corporation, who is an avid collector of African art and a world museum enthusiast.

The lower floor of the museum holds, among other things, a memorabilia gallery for many famous artists, the mechanical music gallery displaying music boxes and an Apellonia Jazz Organ that plays twice per day, as well as an Experience Gallery where kids and adults can play and experiment with musical instruments and assorted noise/music devices. There is also a gallery for special displays, which from now through 9/4/2017, hosts the Dragons and Vines collection of inlaid masterpiece works on guitar, mandolin and other stringed instruments. There is also a cafe and an auditorium for performances. The line-up is impressive and varied – we were sorry our schedule did not permit us to attend any.

The second floor holds 10 distinct large galleries for each continent and/or culture. All the displays are beautifully presented, with plaques and videos to explain and demonstrate the instruments and the culture from which them come. We experienced stimulation fatigue well before we finished touring the galleries. If we ever have an opportunity to go back, we will allot more time and purchase the 2-day pass. I chatted with one of the security staff and asked her how she managed to do her job with all of the fascinating sights and sounds around her. She told me she loves her work, but she has to keep her focus on the job, not the exhibits, or she would be too distracted. Even so, she keeps finding things that she hadn’t seen before. I bumped into her later in the afternoon. She had a big smile on her face and told me again how much she loves her job.

Dragons & Vines exhibit: “Dragon 2002” – mother of pearl inlay. Jeff Easley’s design was inspired by scene in Jurassic Park where the dinosaur looks into the car’s window.

Dragon & Vines exhibit: mother of pearl inlay peacock design.

A fantastic example of one of the creative harmonicas on display – Trumpet Call!

Russia is well represented, including these fine examples of an accordion, auto-harp and birdie whistle.

Another creatively decorated string instrument, this one from Iceland.

Indonesian percussion instruments and bells used in shadow puppet theater.

Swedish Kromatisk Nyckelharpa. So many strings – I can’t count them!

Crazy curved horn from Denmark. Glad I saw the video, or I would have had no idea how it was played.

The plaque next to this interesting keyboard reads: Clavicytherium (harpsichord), Goudhurst, England, 1979. Adlam & Burnett, maker. Replica of oldest extant keyboard instrument, a southern German Clavicytherium (c. 1480).

This exhibit brought back fond memories of my parents’ stories of their time in Hawaii during the late ’40s.

A circular stucture holding a round a drums from Madalay, Myanmar (Burma).

And from the U.S., Hank Thompson’s Nudie Suite from the 1960s and 1970s (named for the designer, Nudie Rodeo Tailors). Hank Thompson (1925-2007) was a revered Western-swing innovator whose recordings spanned seven decades.

Our friend Morey positively beaming after seeing Hank Thompson’s memorabilia and videos and the Audio Records’ display of early audio recording equipment.

Les Paul and Mary Ford – commemorating their phenomenal contributions to music and recording technique innovations.

The Apellonia Jazz Organ mechanical band box! Plays twice a day at about noon and 3 p.m.