On the Road with Tom and Gloria travel blog


Building Steinways

First Steinway - the kitchen piano

Steinway GI Field Piano

Playing Glasses

The Stick

Beautiful Harpsichord

Agave Fiddle ( made from agave cactus)

Visible Organ


Bagpipes not only in Scotland


The Lur

Tischner Piano

Dance of The Sugar Plums Score

Japan - Gagaku

Peru - Panpipes

Argentina Bajunes made from rolled palm leaves




Musical sewing box

1926 Dance Organ

Dutch hand crank organ

Joshua Bell's first violin

The Musical Instrument Museum is only three years old and growing every day. What a fabulous place. Founded by an ex CEO of Target, the MIM has a collection of over 15,000 instruments and artifacts ( only 5000 on display at any given time). The collection represents over 200 countries in five regional galleries : Africa & Middle East, Asia and Oceania, Europe, Latin America - Caribbean, and the United States and Canada. There are four additional galleries on the main floor : The Mechanical Music Gallery, The Artist Gallery, The Experience Gallery and the Conservation Observation Gallery( nothing being worked on today). Every guest gets a Guidepost headphone set - state of the art. There are hidden identifiers at each exhibit that cue the audioguide to automatically start the designated musical selections . As you walk away the music fades and waits for you to approach the next exhibit. Fantastic!

Where to begin --- I guess I'll start with my favorite instrument - the piano. I watched a video about the making of Steinway pianos. The patented soundboard - tapered to be thinner at the edges, gives a richer, more resonant tone with a longer duration of sound - it's claim to fame. Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg was an accomplished cabinet maker. In 1836, he made his first piano in his kitchen. I saw that piano today. He anglicized his name to Steinway and the rest is history. During WWII , the Steinway factory was retooled to make aircraft wings and tail assemblies, but the company got permission to produce a GI Field piano. The US government bought 2,500 of those pianos and many were parachuted into combat zones boosting troop morale.

Mary Jane and I got to the museum around 10:15 and we left at 4:30 - not because we had seen or done everything - simply because we were exhausted. Here is a smattering of what I learned : the drum set is an American invention; you can make fiddles out of agave cacti; the oliphant is made out of elephant ivory and was blown to mark a transfer of land ownership; the harmonica was originally used as a tuning tool until it was modified by the Hohner Company in Germany; the Tischner piano on display, made for Czar Nicolas I, is the only one left out of 24 that were made and it is in immaculate playable condition ; Joshua Bell started playing the violin at age 4 and when he outgrew that instrument and passed it on, the new owner's father accidentally drove over it smashing the case and shattering the instrument. ( amazing that it was saved - see photo); people who played glasses were thought to go mad by the ringing when it was probably the lead in the glass entering through the fingertips that caused the "madness"; the "stick" combines aspects of the piano, guitar, bass and drums into one keyboard; Japan's "Gagaku" is the oldest unbroken teacher to pupil music tradition - sustained since the 7th century; pan pipes when played in an ensemble, need two musicians to complete a melody with each musician playing only a part of the time alternating pitches with his partner; and most amazingly - in Paraguay there is a band made up of kids, that scavenged the dump for parts for musical instruments - wood from shipping crates and a chest xray made a drum, spatulas, forks, and oil cans became violins and bass fiddles. Unbelievable.

Mary Jane and I needed a break and the MIM Cafe was the perfect place to rest and refuel. After lunch we hit the Experience Gallery - literally - we banged on gongs, banged on bells,and plucked harp strings. The Artists Gallery was next - artists from every genre were represented by all kinds of memorabilia. The Mechanical Gallery had a musical sewing box in display. Built in 1825, it plays when you press one of the keys. It was truly exquisite. The wonderful thing is that there are videos of all of these instruments playing their music. The curator was filmed carefully winding the music box and then the music was recorded. Now everyone gets to hear the sound . Spectacular.

By now we were bushed! Time to head home but I definitely will make a return visit when I am in the area next winter. If you are ever in Phoenix - the MIM is a MUST!

Entry Rating:     Why ratings?
Please Rate:  
Thank you for voting!
Share |