Discovering the Harmonies of the World…the Musical Instrument Museum

Opened in April of 2010, the Musical Instrument Museum is the largest museum of its type in the world.  No matter what your taste in music is, with over 15,000 instruments and associated objects from nearly 200 countries and territories, there is something here for everyone.  In addition to representing every inhabited continent, some of the larger countries, such as China, Russia, the United States, India and the Congo have multiple displays to showcase the different types of folk, ethnic, and tribal music.

A Harp-guitar from Bad Harzburg, Lower Saxony, Germany.  Myde by Heyno Herbst in 1994, it is a replica of a 1920 harp-guitar made by W. J. Dyer & Bro.

A Harp-guitar from Bad Harzburg, Lower Saxony, Germany. Made by Heyno Herbst in 1994, it is a replica of a 1920 harp-guitar made by W. J. Dyer & Bro.

 

A replica of a Martin guitar workshop at the Musical Instrument Museum.

A replica of a Martin guitar workshop at the Musical Instrument Museum.

 

Your admission into the museum includes a wireless headset for visitors to wear throughout the museum.  As you approach a display, your headset is synced with a “hot spot”, allowing you to hear the instruments being played.  My favorite aspect of this was when we got to the display about the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay.  Founded in Cateura, Paraguay, by Favio Chavez.  Cateura is basically a shantytown built on a landfill.  Families eke out their survival by collecting and reselling garbage.  Favio Chavez, along with a group of other individuals searched the landfill for usable materials to create instruments.  From empty old drums, tin cans, old pieces of wood, buttons, old x-ray films, and bottle caps, they have made violins, drums, cellos, flutes and other instruments and have created a thriving music school and youth orchestra that performs internationally.  They have also been the subject of a documentary, Landfill Harmonic.

A soprano saxophone made from a tin water pipe, metal bottle caps, plastic buttons, metal spoon and fork handles from the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay.

Close up detail of a soprano saxophone made from a tin water pipe, metal bottle caps, plastic buttons, metal spoon and fork handles from the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay.  Made by Tito Romero.

 

A Cello made of a metal automotive container, spatula, used strings, recycled wood and tuning pegs and made by Nicolas "Cola" Gomez.

A Cello made of a metal automotive container, spatula, used strings, recycled wood and tuning pegs and made by Nicolas “Cola” Gomez.

 

Along with the wide variety of instruments, there was also costumes from various festivals held around the world.  One of the neatest I saw, was the masks from Junkanoo, a street parade with music that occurs in many towns across The Bahamas.

A mask from Junkanoo.

A mask from Junkanoo.

Another section of the museum that I found very interesting was the Mechanical Music Gallery, featuring a selection of musical instruments such as player pianos and music boxes that by definition, “play themselves”.  The time between the late 19th and early 20th centuries as known as the Golden Age of Mechanical Music and saw the creation of a variety of self-playing instruments as well as automatons (self-operating machines)

 

A Playasax (mechanical mouth organ) made by Q.R.S. DeVry Corp. and manufactured from the mid-1920s to the 1930s.

A Playasax (mechanical mouth organ) made by Q.R.S. DeVry Corp. and manufactured from the mid-1920s to the 1930s.

A mechanical mouth organ from Germany (c. 1900)  Beginning in the 1870s, player trumpets similar to this one were sold in the United States as "phonographic cornets" and "trumpettos".

A mechanical mouth organ from Germany (c. 1900) Beginning in the 1870s, player trumpets similar to this one were sold in the United States as “phonographic cornets” and “trumpettos”.

 

A close up of an automaton "mask seller".

A close up of an automaton “mask seller”.

Also on display are guitars from various artists, including Toby Keith, Taylor Swift, Roy Orbison, John Denver, along with many others.

An EF-341C guitar, owned by Toby Keith; one of many instruments that was damaged at the Soundcheck storage facility in the 2010 Nashville Flood

An EF-341C guitar, owned by Toby Keith; one of many instruments that was damaged at the Soundcheck storage facility in the 2010 Nashville Flood

While at the museum, also take the opportunity to watch any restorations going on in the Conservation Room.  There wasn’t anybody or any instruments in the room while I was there, but it was still an interesting place to see.

The Conservation Room at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Conservation Room at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona.

If you decide to visit the museum, make sure you check out the Experience Gallery, where there are a variety of the same instruments on display throughout the museum, allowing any aspiring musician to try them out.

There was far too many instruments on display to post photos of all of them here; however, I will be uploading more images to my Flickr page for you to visit should you so choose.  Please remember that all of my photos are copyrighted and may not be used for any purpose without permission from me.

Until the next adventure….

 

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