Musical Instrument Museum,
collections. First up is Africa and the Middle East, and DeWalt noted that many cite it as the most extraordinary part of the whole museum, thanks to extravagantly decorated instruments, exceptionally fine video components, the pulsating rhythms of the music, and the generally exotic aspect of it all. (“One week,” he recalled, “we had three African consultants collecting instruments and shooting video in three different countries, and all three came down with malaria at the same time.”) On to Asia and Oceania (including a reproduction of a Javanese gong-making shop and a whole subsection of displays from China and India), to Latin America and the Caribbean, to the United States and Canada (where, the day of my visit, Sandra Day O’Connor seemed utterly captivated as she swayed to the sounds of an Appalachian jug band), and to Europe. Any of these divisions could be entire museums in their own right. The MIM collection today numbers upward of 10,000 instruments, of which perhaps a third can be displayed at any time. They range from simple log drums and humble nose flutes to instruments of astonishing complexity and even to superstar artifacts, like the first Steinway piano ever built (in Henrich Engelhard Steinweg’s kitchen in Germany, in 1836), a drum played at the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and guitars that belonged to Paul Simon, Eric Clapton, and Carlos Santana.
Downstairs, the kids go wild in a hands-on gallery — no headsets, much noise — while the parents check out a gallery of mechanical instruments or another housing touring shows (currently spotlighting the Latin American presence in popular music of the United States), or perhaps sneak a snack at the café or browse the generously stocked gift shop. Spending an entire day at MIM is easy, and there’s a good chance you might continue into the night with a performance at the museum’s graceful, roomily designed, and acoustically precise 299-seat concert hall, where violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Jeremy Denk recently recorded a recital CD that will be released shortly by Sony Classical. It’s not a day-trip for Santa Feans, of course, since Phoenix is an eighthour drive, but as a long-weekend destination, MIM should stake a place high on the list of getaways. New Mexicans are accustomed to driving forever to get anywhere, and an eight-hour commute seems not much of an imposition to see and hear the world in the most exalting circumstances. You’ll be smiling all the way home. The Musical Instrument Museum is located at 4725 E. Mayo Blvd., in Phoenix. For information, call 480-478-6000 or check the museum’s website, www.theMIM.org.