You don’t know what you don’t know

Last week Sandy and I took a trip to Arizona to visit my mom and enjoy some warmth and sun. We spent an afternoon at the Musical Instrument Museum ( in Scottsdale and they practically had to kick us out at closing time. MIM is mainly a collection of 15,000 instruments from around the world. One of the first things you see is this huge standup bass, one of only 3 made in the 19th century.ImageYou don’t finger it. There are levers on one side that clamp on your chosen note and the idea is to bow long low notes. This mondo bass didn’t catch on, clearly because it won’t fit in a minivan.

From here you go into a series of large rooms, divided up by continent. We started with Africa. They have displays for each country and you wear a headset that plays music samples automatically when you approach. As we worked our way through Asia, the Pacific rim, and South America, a couple of things struck me. One is that people make instruments out of whatever they have in their corner of the globe. Check out this South American drum with an alligator skin head:Image

Another impression I had is how instruments reflect your culture, like this Mongolian bowed lute with carved horse head:Image

There are many styles and streams of music around the world that I know almost nothing about. A group of Tibetan instruments:Image

A gamelan orchestra setup from southeast Asia:Image

Ah, some familiar turf. Buck Owens’ guitar and outfit:Image

The piano John Lennon used to compose Imagine:Image

The MIM is a great place to remember why I love music. There was more to the trip, like the sunburn I got on a 3 hour bike ride, but that’s another story.

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