About a month ago I travelled south to Arizona, travelling to Phoenix, Tucson, and even making a stop in Puerto Penasco, Mexico. It was a good break from the windy city, visiting friends, watching Game of Thrones all day, trying to survive the blistering heat (110 degrees at some points), and checking out the Musical Instrument Museum. Located in north Phoenix, this museum is home to over 6,000 instruments from 200 countries.
There were certainly a lot of very interesting looking instruments from every part of the world. Admission tickets came with headphones that wirelessly picked up various screens. Unfortunately, the video and audio recordings were limited, and I caught myself wondering what the instruments sounded like. As a composer and fan of weird sounding instruments, I wish they would have brought musicians in to perform them.
My favorite part of the entire museum was definitely the “Experience Gallery.” They had a lot of hand drums, cheap looking harps, marimbas, a huge gong, and my favorite, the theremin. After trying to play a simple scale on it and failing, I kept coming back to try again. I have a lot more respect for theremin players now! Although, I felt bad for the museum worker, having to listen to a dozen people noodle randomly on all of these instruments hour after hour.
Although I did have a blast walking through the vast array of galleries, I can’t say I gathered much from the experience. I believe I learned more about how the instruments look than how they sound. There was not very much information on each instrument, other than where it comes from. Each country has its own section of the gallery, and it seemed like there were a lot of repeated instruments. Needless to say I saw enough violins and guitars to last a lifetime.
Overall, it was fun experience that could be improved with some more focus on instrumental performance. If you are ever in Phoenix I would still recommend giving this place a visit, if not to listen to the instruments, just to see a huge collection of fairly diverse instruments.
P.S. Why would they put the first Steinway ever built next to a gallery on the Black Eyed Peas? Yikes.