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Musical Instrument Museum of Phoenix Review – Savoring the Many Songs of the Soul

By Amy Munice

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Aficionados of world music will have only one question when they visit the Phoenix Musical Instrument Museum – “How can I move in?”



The best you’ll be able to do is get a two-day pass, or several if need be, so that you can luxuriate in this masterful display of the world’s musical traditions. 



The tagline of the museum—“The World’s Only Global Musical Instrument Museum” is not hyperbole.  This is a thorough and fascinating assemblage of musical artifacts from across the globe and from every culture.



One sign puts it well—“If not for music, the soul would have no language.”



Walking from one continental gallery to another, your eyes delight on the craftsmanship of instruments-- some jeweled and some made of junk--but all capable of soul-lilting songs in keeping with local traditions.



Here is a clip of Paraguy’s Recycled Orchestra, whose instruments you can see on display and who also made their North American debut at the museum.



There are more than 15,000 instruments and associated costumes and other cultural artifacts that speak to the importance of music in each culture. 



You could spend a decade or more traveling the globe to find all of these instruments and catalog these musical traditions.  Or you can don your headsets at Phoenix’ Musical Instrument Museum and soak up the successful efforts of the museum’s curators to do it for you.


From so many to choose from—here are two more video snippets suggesting the range of the museum.


Indian Music---





Greek Bouzouki---






If there is a problem with this museum it is that there is SO MUCH to take in it is overwhelming—audio and visual fighting for your apt attention. 


Luckily the spacious surrounds and even delicious cafeteria food allow you a means to take a break and then get right back to it.  Music lovers will not want to dawdle long, even though the lobby affords a piano for impromptu concerts as yet another way to take a break.


Since you are in the Southwest it probably makes sense to make sure that you don’t miss out on the demonstrations of Native American music to get a sense of place.



The headset technology of this museum is top-notch.  You don’t have to fumble with buttons and such on an audio guide.  Rather, the exhibits sense that you are there and begin playing the appropriate audio as you are viewing the exhibit.   Some exhibits have a few recordings, in others there are up to five that rotate.


There are also concerts and special exhibits in the museum at all times.  While we were there we saw “Women Who Rock”, including memorabilia ranging from The Supremes to Madonna and more.  The permanent displays also pay homage to the instruments played by world-renowned musicians—whether it’s the Steinway piano on which John Lennon composed “Imagine” or one of the drums so famously played at the opening of the 2008 Olympics.


If you love music or if you are student of world culture you cannot miss this museum.  While there are many things to do in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, this stands out as one that is worth the price of a plane ticket alone.  Put it on the proverbial “bucket list”.


Musical Instrument Museum of Phoenix, Arizona


4725 East Mayo Boulevard

Phoenix, Arizona 85050


For more information call the Museum of Musical Instrument’s website (www.mim.org) or call 480 478 6000.


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Photos: Courtesy of Musical Instrument Museum of Phoenix, Arizona




Published on Feb 03, 2014

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