A $250-million project, the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix is a 200,000-square-foot building with two floors of spacious, light-filled galleries and a collection of more than 15,000 instruments and associated objects. (About 5,000 of these instruments are on display at any one time.) It is the biggest museum of its type in the world.
The MIM was founded by Robert J. Ulrich, former CEO and chairman emeritus of Target Corporation.
We began our tour with this display of guitars. A few are identified in the photos below.
A Gittler Guitar is an experimental designed guitar created by Allan Gittler (1928–2003). Gittler felt that sentimental design references to acoustic guitars are unnecessary in an electronically amplified guitar and designed his instrument with the objective of reducing the electric guitar to the most minimal functional form possible. He made 60 guitars in New York in the mid-1970s to early 1980s.
MIM's octobasse stands twelve feet three inches tall and is played by pulling down levers to fret the strings. Its sound is one octave below a conventional double bass, in the same range as the thirty-two-foot pipe of an organ. Its lowest note is below what's considered the cutoff for normal human hearing. What you actually hear are the overtones.
A silent guitar is a type of guitar with a solid or chambered body that converts the vibration of the strings into electric current using a piezoelectric pickup. The body of the guitar does not amplify the vibration of the strings into audible sound. Thanks to this, musicians can practice with headphones without disturbing people around them, or obtain an acoustic tone under heavy amplification without feedback.
I had never seen one of these (I know, I need to get out more), but Eric Clapton plays "Wonderful Tonight" on the silent guitar at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ywysyHBg1I
This cornet caught my eye because it was only about 12 inches long.
Czech Republic, 1850-1862
We moved on to the Mechanical Music Gallery, which features a selection of musical instruments such as player pianos, mechanical zithers, and cylinder music boxes that, by definition, “play themselves.”
When touring the galleries, we had a set of earphones. Television screens showed the instruments in use and wireless “hot spots” around MIM provide loops of streamed music, immersing guests in the sounds of the musical instruments on display. The opportunity to both see and hear instruments that we had never seen or heard before added so much to the tour’s experience.
One of the founders of G. Perlee Draaiorgels in Amsterdam was Gijs Perlee. Organs like the one above, often called fairground organs are pipe organs designed for use in a commercial public fairground setting to provide loud music to accompany fairground rides and attractions. Unlike organs intended for indoor use, they are designed to produce a large volume of sound to be heard over and above the noise of crowds of people and fairground machinery.
The period between the late 19th and early 20th centuries was known as the Golden Age of Mechanical Music.
Apollonia, manufactured in 1926 and re-manufactured into its present configuration in 1950 by Gebroeders Decap, was given the name “Apollonia.” The Decap brothers, from Belgium, often named the largest organs they made.
Despite its small size this is one of the loudest instruments in the Mechanical Instruments Room.
We continue on to the Geographical Galleries.