View Full Version : Who wants to go to the Musical Instrument Museum

04-23-2010, 11:20 AM
The Musical Instrument Museum (http://www.themim.org/) is opening this weekend.

It is up near me, near Desert Ridge. I drove by it the other week on my way back from a Total Wine Coachella run.

They are open 9 to 5 most days, 9 to 9 on Thursday/Friday. Admission is $15.

The New Times write up (http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2010-04-22/music/the-first-global-instrument-museum-opens-in-phoenix/) talks about them having instruments from around the world and various cool things like John Lennon's piano and shit.

Not this weekend but who would be interested in going some Saturday or Sunday in May or June or whatnot?

04-23-2010, 11:28 AM
Sweet, another thing to plan on.

04-23-2010, 11:59 AM
I heard the NPR/KJZZ story on this and I really want to go. Maybe next weekend when I'm not sick. Or board meet-up. Whenever. I want to play the theremin!

04-24-2010, 05:48 PM
Let me know if you plan this. Sounds interesting. It's fairly close by and seems like we could make a fun meetup at Desert Ridge.

hacking my dreams
04-26-2010, 10:08 AM
I wanna go! I am a new boardie but I'd love to check this out. Maybe just go on my own, but any takers let me know (I live in downtown tempe) and have never met any coachella ppl in phoenix (that'd be f-u-n-)!

Thank you for sharing this! I just have to wait for all my etho/musicology student friends to finish their semester before I can get them to go anywhere!

04-26-2010, 10:17 AM
We'll go with you. Let's shoot for a Friday night; we'll go there and then go drinking.

hacking my dreams
04-26-2010, 10:30 AM
that sounds good.

04-29-2010, 07:55 AM
The MIM got a nice review (not totally clean but still generally positive) in the NYT last weekend. Page 1 of the Arts section!


April 24, 2010
Museum Review
A Cacophony of Musical Playthings in the Desert

PHOENIX — There are complete skins of animals, dried, tied and knotted, their orifices fitted with hollow canes and reeds. Other hides are stretched taut over enormous gourds. Strings, spun from intestines, are pulled and pegged into the ends of long necks. Antlers, bones and horns are cut, carved and drilled. Elephant, goat, antelope, lizard, gazelle — the skins of all are used.

It isn’t the scrapheap of an abattoir, but it can seem like one.

Music is noble, ethereal, seductive, thrilling, but spend time gazing at some of the 12,000 instruments that the new Musical Instrument Museum has collected in time for its Saturday opening — about 3,000 are on display in a new 190,000-square-foot building on 20 acres in northern Phoenix — and you are overwhelmed by something else. These instruments from around the world are haunted by the animal world and its natural setting.

It is so easy today to think of instruments as the products of manufacture that you can be unprepared for their primal invocations. They boast of the rawness of their natural origins, sometimes displaying it in furs or skins, sometimes merely evoking it with inchoate cries of the inhuman. Skins and bone are wrested into shape — stretched, pulled, hammered, pressed — until these instruments are prepared to sing, shout or pulse.

We often think about musical culture from the other end of its life, from the sounds being produced. At this museum, though, you are faced again and again with music’s origins — with its means, not its ends.

Those origins may not always be obvious, particularly when you walk into the museum’s collection of mechanical instruments and watch the 27-foot-wide Decap mechanical jazz orchestra (built in the 1930s in Antwerp, Belgium) play two saxophones, two accordions, a xylophone and a drum kit as it reads signals off reams of programmed, punctured paper. But in general, instruments anticipate the transformational work of the music they play: they take elements of the instinctive, animal, irrational world and shape it. They transform nature into culture. There may be no more important civilizing work. We like to think of it as play.

Think of instruments, too, as a kind of raw material that you are confronted with as you walk through the expansive exhibit spaces of this $250 million museum. It is material that the institution celebrates, promotes and sometimes illuminates, and it makes the museum of immediate interest. But the possibilities, for now, are more compelling than the achievements.

Though I saw the museum before its exhibits were fully mounted (and obtained images, text and plans for what was missing), the impact of this institution is in its size, nerve and astonishing quality and character of parts of its collection. But it seems unfinished in ways that should be examined.

There may be no other museum in the world that has set itself so ambitious a goal — trying to present so many of the globe’s instruments while becoming a center for ethnographic musical study — all while starting from scratch. The sprawling new building contains a 299-seat concert hall that will offer wide-ranging programming. It is equipped with a state-of-the-art video and audio recording studio.

The museum also has a conservation lab and an “experience gallery,” in which instruments can be played by visitors. And its Artist Gallery displays loans of celebrity instruments (like one of John Lennon’s pianos). The institution has also attracted an accomplished staff of ethnomusicologists and organologists (as instrumental specialists are called), along with liberal mandates to go out and collect.

Most museums begin with a great collection; this one began with an idea. It was the brainchild of Robert J. Ulrich, the chairman emeritus of the Target Corporation; in 2007 Billie R. DeWalt, a cultural anthropologist and former professor of Latin American studies at the University of Pittsburgh, became the museum’s founding president and director, and guided its development.

Two years ago the institution purchased a major collection of 1,200 instruments from the Fiske Museum at the Claremont Colleges in California: American, European and world instruments dating from the 17th through the 20th centuries. They are accompanied here by new purchases, many of which, it seems, have never even been played. The museum is a megalopolis of musical instrumentation, with wide aisles and spacious displays (created by Gallagher & Associates), and room enough for the half-million hoped-for annual visitors.

The department store metaphor is tempting, and not just because the building’s main architect, Rich Varda, oversees Target’s team of store designers (he worked here with RSP Architects). The presentation is not particularly imaginative; the overall design is fairly static; the feel is almost utilitarian. But there’s something here for nearly every taste, with most of the instruments branded by nationality rather than by type.

The five major galleries are almost continental, devoted to Africa and the Middle East, Asia and Oceania, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the United States and Canada. The displays are organized by country and no land — whether Brunei, Togo or Kyrgyzstan — seems left out. Every nation is judged to have a musical culture important enough to justify a panel or two of text, displays of some distinctive instruments and a video showing them being played in native surroundings.

There are electronic instruments as well, but Sennheiser audio players distributed to visitors are the most essential high-tech aspect of the experience. The audio players pick up transmissions that allow you to hear the videos at each display: the Peruvian raft flute players dressed in full regalia, Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, or the elaborate drumming in traditional Central African ceremonies.

After a while, though, it becomes apparent that we remain on the surface of things. In most cases, we don’t really learn why these particular instruments are used, where a nation’s traditions came from, how they are changing or how the music itself works. One panel explains: “The Bisa people of the Mandé Region play the kone lamellaphone; in the Sahei, the Fulani play the filen bamboo flute.”

It is difficult to map all this out conceptually. And the principle of national organization is distracting. Why every country? Some are crucial, others irrelevant. Some have had immense influence; with others, neglect does not seem undeserved.

And why, within a nation, is there so little organization and, among nations, so much repetition? Guitars, often with only slight differentiation, appear in Malta, New Zealand, Argentina and the American Southwest. Plucked lutes are displayed in Turkmenistan, Mongolia, Nigeria and Australia. What does this tell us, apart from the fact that certain forms of instruments have spread all over the world?

The collection is more socially than musically determined. Instruments appear in a display not necessarily because they best reflect native cultures, but because they are the instruments people happen to be playing: a British pennywhistle appears in the Barbados display, an American trumpet in Cuba’s. There is some value in this, but the approach also creates a jumble of instruments, genres and traditions. People do all kinds of things, but to understand their significance, we need to make additional distinctions.

This problem is aggravated because musical instrument companies that became museum supporters ended up with extensive displays here. The Fender guitar exhibit is possibly the largest one in the entire United States-Canada gallery, and the text is unabashedly promotional. “Contemporary musical artists,” we read, “ have consistently turned to Fender for inspiration.”

They’ve also, apparently, turned to Martin guitars and Steinway pianos (“the standard by which all others are measured”).

Otherwise, the organizing principles seem to favor random sampling. This is particularly a problem in the United States gallery, the only place the museum puts aside its preoccupations with national boundaries and organizes displays by style. There are exhibits devoted to klezmer, Appalachian music, Sousa bands, country and western, Japanese-American drumming, conjunto, jazz, bluegrass and hip-hop.

You can piece together some of the ways black American music evolved, but the museum’s miscellaneous approach turns American music into a conglomeration of small, unrelated islands of sound. There is something remarkable about the history of diverse musics in the United States, but we can’t make sense of it here. At a time when most museums want to shape their exhibitions into narratives, this one seems strenuously to avoid any semblance of a narrative or evaluative thread.

The musical tradition that suffers most through this approach is the “classical” — the tradition of art music in the United States. We don’t find anything about the development of American orchestras, or the growth of the world’s finest musical conservatories, or the evolution of American musical experimentation. Nor, in the Asian galleries, do we learn of the explosion of interest in Western classical music in the last half-century, and the growth of Japanese and South Korean piano manufacturers.

Generally, the curatorial approach favors representation and sampling rather than assessment and distinction. Its point is diversity, and its method is quantity. Is that really the approach, though, taken by members of the museum’s distinguished curatorial council — a list of consultants who are representatives of the world’s major instrument collections and museums?

But the aspect missed the most here, strangely, is the music itself. We see the instruments, we listen to them being played, but we don’t learn how they are used to explore musical space and time, how a culture’s sense of musical scales and relations might affect the construction of its instruments, or how its beliefs about the world might affect both its instruments and its music. Perhaps, over time, that will come.

In the meantime, what we are left with — and, admittedly, this is no minor thing — is a sense of the scale of the human musical enterprise and its centrality in every culture’s attempts to tame the ever untamable natural world.

The Musical Instrument Museum opens on Saturday at 4725 East Mayo Boulevard, Phoenix; (480) 478-6000; themim.org.

hacking my dreams
04-29-2010, 01:40 PM
My ethnomusicology prof. helped them with the gamelan (javanese ensemble percussive instruments) and they are *beautiful* (at least his private collection is). Fun to play too.

Thanks for posting this Times article. Tomorrow is a Friday, and your offer still stands, i won't bite. (And I love beer, and bourbon)

04-29-2010, 07:34 PM
i'm pretty booked this weekend or i'd be there!!!

05-06-2010, 03:56 PM
Anyone up for next weekend? (May 14 or 15 or whatever)

hacking my dreams
05-06-2010, 05:31 PM
palms out

05-07-2010, 08:40 AM
oh god. You live here?

05-07-2010, 09:55 AM
I need to check it out. My Mom knows the person who opened it.

05-07-2010, 11:07 AM
Fine. Everyone ignore my suggestion.

05-07-2010, 03:45 PM
We'd definitely consider next weekend. No set plans to the contrary at this time.

hacking my dreams
05-07-2010, 10:58 PM
I live here, but i am disgusted by your sentiment, so i think i'll drop my palms now

05-08-2010, 09:20 AM
I read this and forgot you are all in Arizona. Drats!!!!!

05-08-2010, 12:08 PM
I may be able to go next Sunday, Saturday or Friday morning/afternoon.

05-10-2010, 02:59 PM
Is Saturday evening ok? Let's do this.

05-10-2010, 04:23 PM
No, they close at 5 pm on Saturdays.

05-10-2010, 04:26 PM
oh damn. Saturday noon-ish then?

05-12-2010, 09:16 AM
bump. anyone? I won't be able to do this for several weekends after this one.

05-12-2010, 10:47 AM
this seems really cool, i'd love to check it out, to bad its' in Phoneix

05-12-2010, 10:53 AM
as i said in the phoenix thread, i'm interested, but hiking in the morning saturday. depending on when we get down i may come out. i'll text amyzzz or something saturday.

*edit* i just saw how far it is. i'm hiking south mountain lol. so unless we get done at like eleven, i dunno that i can make it.

05-12-2010, 11:13 AM
Ivy, just figure out when you can go -- we could move the time out.

John still hasn't responded on this one, although he said earlier he's free most of the weekend (as are we).

Also wondering if TheClares Paul can make it....

Be mindful that it closes at 5pm.

05-13-2010, 09:32 AM
i think i'm just going to say i can't make it. it seems kinda crazy to drive all the way across the valley after hiking. but i definitely want to check this out at some point.

i also want to go to ikea this weekend :x new entertainment center :x

05-13-2010, 09:34 AM
oh whoops. I just facebooked you. argh. No worries.

05-13-2010, 02:19 PM
Let me know the time, the honey-dew list is growing. Later is probably better, but not sure you can count on us this weekend either.

05-13-2010, 04:08 PM
Shooting for 1pm Saturday.

05-13-2010, 04:09 PM
Sorry, can't go. It's in Arizona.

05-13-2010, 04:20 PM
You're going to boycott our brand new museum? :eek:

hacking my dreams
05-14-2010, 04:44 AM
yeah, count me out too. i hope you have fun alone, like at your prom.

05-14-2010, 09:07 AM
John and my husband are going. :thu

05-15-2010, 03:45 AM
Looking forward to your review, sorry we can't make it this time.

05-15-2010, 09:15 AM
I just noticed I missed a facebook msg from John changing the time to earlier than I can make it. I think I'm gonna bow out today and try this again in a few weeks. Oh well!

05-15-2010, 11:13 AM
I was just asking if you could make it earlier. I had forgotten that you said you might be working.

Also if my brother was able to go earlier then I was considering going early with them, eating lunch somewheres and then wandering around more when y'all showed up.

Oh well. There will be a better time for this.

06-09-2010, 08:48 AM
Does anyone want to go to this Saturday?

hacking my dreams
06-24-2010, 10:38 PM
there are some pricey shows at the MIM in July. Perhaps then? Perhaps not, as they are ~$35. No Student Discount.

01-10-2011, 09:30 PM
I finally made it on Friday afternoon. Possibly a huge pile of photos to follow. Or at least a link to a huge pile. I really enjoyed it, spent about two and a half hours wandering the museum. Counting the gift shop and the cafe we were there well over three hours.

It was cool to see zithers from all over the world. My favorites were the ones made from animals, made to look like animals and the multipurpose pieces.

01-10-2011, 10:00 PM
Flickr set (http://www.flickr.com/photos/14669732@N07/sets/72157625797748676/) with:

Scraper from South Korea,

Horn-fiddle, from not being able to decide which instrument you want to make:

01-11-2011, 06:23 AM
^ Nice! They were talking about the museum on NPR a couple weeks back. I'd love to go one day.

12-23-2011, 08:03 AM
Date:01/31/2012 01/31/2012
Artist:Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Venue:Musical Instrument Museum
4725 E. Mayo Boulevard
Phoenix AZ

12-25-2011, 08:39 PM
my dad just recently discovered this place in the paper today, which is kinda funny since i was debating taking him recently. i still haven't gone!!!

12-29-2011, 06:17 AM
So, I finally went yesterday. This place is seriously cool, I can't believe I haven't been before. They currently have the piano that John Lennon wrote 'Imagine' on (on loan), which I thought was seriously cool.

12-29-2011, 06:33 AM
I think I'm going to become a member. This is the sort of thing that really deserves supporting.

12-29-2011, 07:28 AM
So, I finally went yesterday. This place is seriously cool, I can't believe I haven't been before. They currently have the piano that John Lennon wrote 'Imagine' on (on loan), which I thought was seriously cool.

Huh. That is pretty cool.

One of my favorite things in London was seeing the handwritten Beatles lyrics in the British Library. Might have to go soon.

12-29-2011, 08:57 AM
I think I'm going to become a member. This is the sort of thing that really deserves supporting.

I met one of the accountants for MIM and she said over 80% of their funding comes from one donor, the former CEO of Target.

12-29-2011, 10:59 AM
yeah I think he founded the thing.

Mr. Dylanja
12-29-2011, 12:13 PM
I live less than three miles from this place and still haven't gone. How long is the piano there, did it say?

12-29-2011, 12:21 PM

I don't think piano talks, Dylan.

Mr. Dylanja
12-29-2011, 01:34 PM
They talk to my soul, Faxl.

01-02-2012, 09:54 AM
dylan, let's make plans to go like three times and then finally go together.

01-02-2012, 11:23 AM
I know you're social people, but when you go to the MIM you spend the entire time with headphones on listening to the music of other countries, so you could easily go alone. :)

Mr. Dylanja
01-02-2012, 11:38 AM
Ivy and I are also fluent in Marine hand signals. I live three fucking miles from this place, and I'd really like to see the piano that talks to people.

01-02-2012, 11:42 AM
3 miles?!!? I hope you are planning on walking.

Mr. Dylanja
01-02-2012, 11:46 AM
I was actually planning on cartwheeling.

01-02-2012, 11:54 AM
Even better. I'll bet Ivy is a good cartwheeler too.

01-02-2012, 11:30 PM
Even better. I'll bet Ivy is a good cartwheeler too.