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Phoenix: Musical Instruments Museum

My informant at the hostel was quite vague with her directions: she pointed at a map and said its "that way", up about there: Google tells me it is close to 20 miles, right in the Northeast side of the city. I set off in the general direction and found that some streets were quiet residential ones with stops at every corner. Others only ran a few block, with some terminating in a one way running the wrong way. Some streets were major thoroughfares. There were also freeways and the Interstate, but this was peak hour and I had no idea what exit I would need. So I stuck to surface roads and had pretty much convinced myself that I wasn't going to find it when I spotted the street I was looking for. I was in a bit of a rush because the museum was closing at 9:00 and I had left at 5:30: it turns out that the 2.5 hours I was there was about all I could handle before my mind glazed over, and think I did get to have a sufficient look at everything.

The museum is enormous: what they have done is set up a country by country display of musical instruments distinctive to each country, with a few video clips to give a sense of the local music. As I approached each, my headphones would let me listen to that country alone: pretty cool. There was a huge emphasis on Asian and African music, with quite a lot on European and, when it came to America, a feature on each musical style and on some specific musicians. These photos will give a sense of the scale of one of the six galleries and one of the smaller country displays.

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As for the instruments, I'll just put up a selection of the better looking or unusual ones. There were lots of guitars and their variants

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There was a room given over to famous musicians and their instruments - I was only barely aware (if that) but here's the guitar used by Steve Vai and Taylor Swift (the colour might have been a good clue).

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Elvis featured strongly - this is his red floweres jumpsuit
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and what's left of the Who's drumkit - apparently it was "detonated" on TV, but the bits they had looked OK to me

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and by way of contrast, a Burmese barrel drum

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This was a bit pink for my taste

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Some kudu, a walking stick violin from Germany, an even small instrument and then a very large bass

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A kulangtang gong chime, the kit for an etire Indonesian orchestra (I saw footage of this in action - it was pretty cool), a sort of gong-drum thing from Cambodia and flutes from Papua New Guinea

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This is how New Zealand was represented (I didn't recognise many of these instruments)

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The Slovakian bagpipes looked, um, interesting

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There were various costumes on display - these caught me eye (the last is a Sardinian Carnival costume, but I didn't keep a note of the other two)

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They had a whole room devoted to mechanical music, from music boxes through a mask selling mechanical doll

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to something I would love to have seen fired up - the Apollonia Dance Organ (first made in 1926 in Belgium and rebuilt in the 1950's, this baby weighs 2 tons and is 25 feet wide)

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Finally, there was a room full of instruments we have a go on. Since I can't actually play one, I had a go with the theremin: I suspect that my output was not up to the standard set by this formidable looking woman

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This is Clara Rockmore: she was (while alive) one of its leading artists

Posted by NZBarry 06:22 Archived in USA

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