Musical Instrument Museum (MIM): Connecting the World Through Music
Updated: Feb 9
I had the pleasure to visit MIM in December 2019. My daughter, a singer and lover of music exclaimed, "Amma, you're finally taking me to a museum I actually want to go to!" (She has, of course, conveniently forgotten, among others, the David Hockey exhibit at the de Young Museum in SF that we both enjoyed thoroughly a few years ago.) She and I were both blown away by MIM.
The building is beautiful, made mainly of Indian sandstone, and its design and appearance are in harmony with Arizona's desert lanscape.
The museum lives up to every word of its mission statement: "The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) enriches our world by collecting, preserving, and making accessible an astonishing variety of musical instruments and performance videos from every country in the world. MIM offers guests a welcoming and fun experience, incomparable interactive technology, dynamic programming, and exceptional musical performances. MIM fosters appreciation of the world’s diverse cultures by showing how we innovate, adapt, and learn from each other to create music—the language of the soul."
We entered, and instead of an entry ticket, were given headphones. And then we were free to explore.
There is a grand piano in the lobby that anyone can play. During our visit, we saw and heard many young people hammer away at the keys. "Für Elise" was a popular piece that day, and we heard several renditions. The Steinway in the upstairs lobby had a sign requesting that no one play it, so we simply admired it.
I was immediately captivated by a large poster at the head of the stairs which said, in English and Hindi "Music is the language of the soul."
The Artist Gallery on the ground level is breathtaking, dedicated to various celebrated musicians, their instruments and video recordings of notable performances.
Also at the ground level and instruments on display as well as a gallery where visitors have an opportunity to touch and play them. I enjoyed playing some gigantic Chinese gongs and drums.
At the upper level are galleries organized by regions of the world. South Asia has an impressively curated collection of instruments as well of videos of Hindustani and Carnatic Music.
To my surprise, there was a huge section on Papua New Guinea, where my brother lives.
Cafe Allegro offered a welcome break and fortification before more explorations. In the atrium is a sculpture called Phoenix, a striking hybrid between the mythological bird for whom the city is named, and a stringed instrument.
The gallery on United States is large and wonderful, and I spent a while on the sections on jazz and the blues. I didn't get to the Europe gallery at all before the closing time.
Two tips: (1) Go there! Perhaps you can even stay for a concert at the MIM Music Theater which presents a few hundred concerts every year! (2) Consider going for two days, so you have ample time to take everything in.
This is a magnificent museum, telling the stories of music and preserving history while utilizing the best of modern technology to help us see the instruments and hear the sounds.