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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.


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



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).


Elvis featured strongly - this is his red floweres jumpsuit

and what's left of the Who's drumkit - apparently it was "detonated" on TV, but the bits they had looked OK to me


and by way of contrast, a Burmese barrel drum


This was a bit pink for my taste


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


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


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


The Slovakian bagpipes looked, um, interesting


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)


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


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)


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


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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