Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Megalopolis of Musical Instrumentation

As we continued our tour of the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) of Phoenix, we kept commenting on the scope of the Museum's collection.

We had anticipated a display of instruments known to us, examples of their predecessors and references to well-known musicians. And all of these displays housed in a few large rooms. Enough for a one-hour visit.

We could not have been further off target in our expectations. And speaking of target, the founder of the MIM, Bob Ulrich, is a former CEO of Target. He and a talented team have succeeded in producing a one-of-kind museum.

To begin with, the building is stunning. The bright, open rooms provide ample opportunity for up-close views of the displays and a spaciousness that promotes a leisurely walk among the 10 groupings of the countries of the world. Each of the 10 rooms features the instruments common to countries within that regions.

Our tour of the European and US/Canada rooms contained the instruments shown here--just some of the more interesting (to us) ones from among the collection on display. The five horns in the right quadrant of this display from the Czech Republic are: the fligelhorna (top in the column of three), the truba, the air truba, the baritone truba (left one of the larger two), and the bas truba.

Adolphe Sax developed the Nouveau alto (alto valved horn), which he described as a "new saxhorn" with peculiar valves and a rotating bell.

The Cajun Accordion shown here was made by Marc Savoy in his shop in Eunice, LA--a shop we have visited on a few occasions during our stops in Cajun Country.

The Over-the-Shoulder horns shown here are still played by a band from Wisconsin. The accom-panying video shows the band on parade. The video sounded much like today's brass band, but it was interesting to note that the sound might be louder and fuller behind the band.

I photo-graphed the Keyed bugle simply because of the little "curl" in the tubing just past the mouthpiece. (Left double click if you would like to enlarge the image.)

C.F. Martin & Co. provided this display of the Martin workshop, which includes a repro-duction of the D-28 "ELVI" guitar (left, right of center). Elvis Presley applied mailbox letters to his guitar, but the "S" fell off the original.

I was surprised to learn that the Kromatisk nyckelharpa (keyed fiddle) was built within the past 30 years in Scandanavia.

And the instrument on the left just reminded of a modern-day trombone following some sort of mishap.

The Double-bell Euphonium reminded me of my private lessons with John Rousopholous. I and my trombone and he and his double-bell produced some good duets.

Built in the 1930s by the famous Decap Brothers of Antwerp, Belgium, the Decap mechanical jazz orchestra (organ) is the largest instrument in the Museum's collection as of today. Expert technicians from the Belgian firm of J. Verbeeck, who had previously refurbished the organ, traveled to Phoenix to give the organ a meticulous four-day-long checkup, regulating its mechanisms as well as tuning and voicing each of its 680 organ pipes.

The organ’s twenty-seven-foot-wide Art Deco facade frames several jazz-band instru-ments, including two piano accordions, two saxophones, a xylophone, and a drum kit and wood blocks.

Unfortunately, we did not get an opportunity to listen to this magnificent beauty or to see the colored lights that flash in rhythm to the music.

Just before closing time, we followed our fellow travelers into the Experience Gallery. Here visitors can play harps and different types of percussion instruments.

Cousin Raina and her husband Jesse took advantage of the opportunity to "experience" the instruments in the room.

The Museum also contains the Artist Gallery, the Mechanical Music Gallery, the Target Gallery (which is devoted to traveling exhibits), and a 300-seat theater with exceptional acoustics for live performances.

As Raina sounded the gong at closing time, we vowed to return more than once more, hoping to see the sackbut (an early trombone) on one of our next visits.

With at least one instrument from every country in the world, the MIM is truly a museum unlike any other--"A megalopolis of musical instrumentation" (Edward Rothstein).

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