Fascinating Music

The air was reasonably clear this morning, so we took a walk by TPC Scottsdale after breakfast.

When we checked in, the resort concierge strongly recommended a visit to the Musical Instrument Museum. They’re open every day including Christmas, so we headed over there soon after they opened, expecting to spend the morning. We spent all day there (except lunch), and if we weren’t heading home tomorrow, I’d be planning to go back so we could see the rest of the museum!

Atingting (Slit Drum) outside the museum

A museum filled with musical instruments could be cacophonous, but this one wasn’t – every visitor gets an audioguide (with headphones, of course) which plays audio for the exhibit you’re seeing. Sennheiser was the guide sponsor and furnished the equipment, so the sound quality was very good.

We began in the Orientation Gallery which featured instruments of various kinds from around the world. Here’s the octobasse – its lowest notes are too deep to hear, but the audioguide did its best to let us experience it.

I really liked this Yemenite shofar, made from kudu horn instead of the ram’s horn that we usually see.

There was an entire gallery devoted to guitars around the world. Here are three.

Gittler (electric guitar)
Voodoo Guitar
Air Guitar (Nitrogen, oxygen, argon, carbon dioxide, and dreams)

The MIM’s current special exhibition is “Acoustic America: Iconic Guitars, Mandolins, and Banjos,” featuring 90 historic stringed instruments, most being played in videos and interviews that you hear on the audioguide. I guess it’s just as well that they didn’t play complete songs or we never would have gotten beyond that exhibit!

The Artist Gallery has exhibits devoted to 40 artists and groups from all over the world. I saw about a third of them before going to the Mechanical Instruments gallery to hear the one instrument in the museum that they play out loud – the Orchestrion, which they only play twice a day. It’s loud – you can hear it two galleries away.

I had high hopes for the Experience Gallery, where you get to play your own music on a varied collection of instruments. I could make pleasing noises (well, I thought they were pleasing) on the gongs and drums, but most of the other instruments needed more skill than I brought to the game.

I finished the day in the Geographic Galleries on the second floor. I started in the US and Canada Gallery and I’d seen almost all of it before we had to leave the museum to head over to Sarah and Ray’s house in Mesa for fondue and more music.

In addition to being an artist, Sarah plays the theremin and treated us to what I’d call “theremin karaoke” (she plays theremin to fit into a recording of more traditional instruments).

Then she let Diane and me try our hands at the theremin (without accompaniment); it was fun!

We said farewell to Sarah and Ray for now and headed back to the resort to pack for our flight home tomorrow.