Where musical instruments band together | Sunday Observer

Where musical instruments band together

Museums come in all shapes and sizes and exhibit everything from dinosaur bones to art, but do you know that there is a museum that displays only musical instruments? Yes, the world famous Musical Instruments Museum (MIM), is found in Phoenix, Arizona, USA.

Housed in a vast building in the Arizona desert, the MIM has musical instruments from all 200 countries in all continents (except Antarctica) and from all time periods.

I recently had the rare opportunity of visiting the MIM and before I knew it, I had spent an entire day there. When the ticketing agent asked me where I am from, I replied 'Sri Lanka'. Then she said “that’s a long way away and your country’s musical instruments are in the Asia section”.

The museum has more than 10,000 fully functioning musical instruments from around the world, grouped according to their countries. For example, the Sri Lanka display has Kandyan drums, tabla, udekki, flutes and other indigenous musical instruments. Each country’s display is unique. The countries are grouped under Africa/Middle East; Asia, Oceania; Europe; Latin America and United States/Canada.

The museum does have a section where the musical instruments can actually be played (called the Experience Gallery), but most others are permanently displayed and cannot be played. But then, how do we know what they sound like?

The museum has a great solution – it gives you a pair of headphones and when you go near the instruments, you can see them being played on the TV screen and hear them in action over the headphones. This way, you can learn a lot about the instruments, their origins and their uses in various countries. The museum is ideal for kids of all ages, regardless of their interests in music.

If you like famous musicians like Elvis Presley, John Lennon and Taylor Swift, some of the musical instruments they have played and some of their clothes are also on display. There is a separate guitar collection that takes about one hour to explore.

Visitors must also see the Mechanical Musical Instruments section which has instruments that play on their own, such as miniature pianos and jewel boxes. The museum also has recording and playback instruments, old and new.

The word “conservation” is often associated with animals and plants, but here at the MIM, you can see how musical instruments from around the world are conserved and repaired before being put on display. This is a working laboratory that you can see from the outside.

The MIM is a ‘living’ museum where you can see contemporary world artistes in action at its 230-seat theatre on most evenings. There are also special classes for children on various types of music and musical instruments. If you want to take a souvenir of your visit home, head to the MIM Shop, where you can buy anything from a mini-guitar to a MIM mug. If you like music, and would like to see everything from an Indian Saraswathi Veena to a Guiro from Puerto Rico, MIM is the place to visit.. 

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