Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Inspiration Found

Steinway exhibit at Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix, AZ
Several weeks ago, my husband and I took our Fall vacation.  With work scheduling conflicts and deadlines that kept changing, even getting ready for vacation was fairly stressful.  Everything finally straightened itself out and off we went.  This year, we chose Arizona.  We love the west, and, as Greg had spent some time in Phoenix for work, he wanted to go back for leisure.  It was a nice trip, and we were able to do everything we had hoped and planned for. 

While I was planning for the trip, I researched things to do in Phoenix.  We only had 2 days there before our other plans took us north, so I wanted to fit in the best and most unique things that the city had to offer.  I found information about a new museum that had only been open for 18 months or so.  The Musical Instrument Museum offered an experience of sight and sound and I told my husband this was a MUST visit for our list. 

Our visit to MIM was an experience I'll not soon forget.  First, it's a big, gorgeous building that draws you in.  The staff was friendly and welcoming. And then we began to wander through the exhibits, drinking in the music with our eyes and ears.  You see, upon arrival at the museum, visitors are given a headset.  The exhibits are fitted with wireless transmitters, so you hear the sounds of the instrument you are looking at.  There are so many instruments on display from so many countries!  I was almost overwhelmed with so much to see.  The photo above is of my favorite exhibit; a Steinway piano, deconstructed, hung from the ceiling.  It was so amazing to stand in front of it and feel a new perspective of the instrument wash over me. 

I was struck by a thought as I went from room to room, seeing exhibits from Africa to Asia to Europe to North America, and so many countries along the way.  How did all of these places with all of these different peoples, who never met or knew of each other, bring music to being?  I could hear differences in how sounds were used and interpreted from place to place.  But I could also see that every place had instruments similar in design.  There was always a flute or whistle or reed type mouth blown instrument, from the wooden nose flute of one African country to the intricate metal flutes of Europe, to the pipes and horns of Israel. (Yes, I saw and heard a real ram horn, and was immediately transported to Jericho!)  There was always a stringed instrument, from the lovely mother-of-pearl inlaid lutes of the Middle East, to the seed-pod single stringed instruments of Africa, to the modern Gibson guitar of the US.  There was always a drum, from the djembe to the steel drums of the Islands, to the huge square drum used in the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China signed by the gentleman that played it that day.  How did we all find these tools; instruments that expressed our thoughts, our feelings, shared our celebrations, our sorrows, and gave voice to our devotion of the Divine?   How did we know that making these sounds, combining them with each other and with our own voices would lift us to another plane of humanity? 
This experience put my ideas of music and instruments to a whole other place.  I will not look at or hear another instrument in the same way again.  I am amazed and awed at the glorious gift that is music. It is in our blood, in our beings, in our souls, and will not be silenced.