If you drive in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area near the Mayo Clinic, there's a building unpretentious and elegantly simple in its exterior design. It is not a "statement" like the de rigueur museums we read about and see in Los Angeles, Berlin, Bilbao, etc. It is a desert treasure and the future of museum exhibition is here: the Musical Instruments Museum (MIM).
Whereas, the Mayo Clinic attends to the human body, MIM nurtures the human spirit and soul. It is sui generis.
MIM is refreshingly original, inviting, embracing, educational and entertaining, and all of the above, simultaneously -- and therefore, the dream destination of every teacher who wants to introduce students to world geography and history, world culture(s) and immersing all visitors in the sociological/cultural differences and similarities of our planet with a vast macrocosmic global approach -- fascinating for young and not so young alike.
On entering, you're given a Wi-Fi headset plus a little gizmo which picks up signals (just for you) and is activated by a display as you stroll. You're not, therefore, just looking at inanimate instruments, you see them being played on videos or film and more importantly, you get to hear what each instrument sounds like and how it is and was used. All of this is handsomely displayed as an audio/visual feast. A living museum. The contemporary visuals and sound are terrific and the old black and white footage of people in different countries utilizing their instruments in the locales where they originate and in circumstances in which they are traditionally used is a revelation.
Kudos, applause and bravos to those responsible for its vision, its conception and its execution.
I was told that Target and key executives of Target were and are the driving forces behind this incredible treasure trove of 14,000 musical instruments displayed by continent, by sub-continent, by country and then again by region within each of those countries.
It took us a full day just to get through Asia and South America. We were on overload by the time we finished the day and wanted to savor and wallow in what we had already seen.
One tiny example of the specialness of MIM is an exhibition on how primitive foundries still make gongs. See the brass hammered to different levels of audio pitch in Malaysia and Indonesia in a replication (which seems completely authentic and might well be) of a three-dimensional Asian outdoor foundry. Videos are integrated into the setting. Watching the gong's inception and development and then seeing the finished product kept Myrna enchanted for 25 minutes.
Eight years studying music at Julliard did not get me even close to an overview of all of the different woodwinds, strings, strumables, percussions and weird indescribable instruments of the world. Now, seeing them all at one time and realizing the likely cross-pollination of cultures through musical clues as people migrated about and Europe began to exercise its influence in the "new" world was illuminating. History books came alive.
Folks, if you're going to the Mayo Clinic and they tell you that you need stimulation and if you want your heart, soul and brain to work more, drive for a few minutes and go to MIM. It's therapeutic and safer than meds.
If you have grandchildren and want to leave them a legacy of an experience they will never forget, take them to MIM.
If you're a teacher and have a class and they want to see the world, feel the world and hear the world as it existed and as it currently exists, take them to MIM (and I mean the entire world)!
This facility is relatively new, set modestly in a desert sandstone building which houses a concert hall and a variety of other exhibits including ongoing visiting performers from all over the world performing their music live.
Phoenix should be proudly promoting this everywhere it can. If Target is indeed the driving force behind this, as well as the many donors I saw listed, "Bravo" again and "Thank You." Stand tall... Well done.
This is a legacy to be proud of... This is not a lot of artifacts. This is the story of humanity... the human spirit... the need to communicate emotions -- common in all men... through music.
This is a new destination.
I hope I don't sound like a snake oil salesman pitching you, but in a country where the arts are getting short shrift and most Americans don't see how the arts are connected to education, I urge/beg/implore you, go ye forth and see and hear and experience MIM for yourself.
Thank you, benefactors. Thank you, dreamers and visionaries. Thank you, Target and whoever else drove this wonderful creation into its existence.
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