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MIM will celebrate music by exhibiting instruments from every country in the world. The museum has already acquired more than 12,000 instruments and objects for its core collection, representing musical traditions from folk and popular to ritual and courtly.
With its serene Indian limestone façade, the 190,000-square-foot building is already a significant presence in Phoenix. In materials and configuration, the new museum building is evocative of the desert landscape as well as its international scope. An ideal showcase for MIM’s diverse collections, which will be installed on two floors of spacious, light-filled galleries, the new building also will feature a classroom, garden courtyard, performance hall, recording studio, restaurant, café, and store.
“The new museum taking shape before us will become a new landmark for Phoenix,” said Bob Ulrich, MIM Founder and Board Chairman. “Our team has made enormous strides toward creating a museum like no other, where guests will see and hear how people everywhere share their experiences through music.”
When MIM opens its doors on April 24, guests will encounter an innovative experience with a global vision. In addition to the thousands of heirloom and hand-crafted instruments on display, MIM will also present instruments that guests can touch and play, insider’s views of how instruments work, and workshops that detail the instrument-building process. Additionally, the galleries will feature advanced wireless technology and high-resolution video screens, enabling museum guests to see instruments, hear their sounds, and observe them being played in their original settings – performances that are often as spectacular as the instruments themselves.
The instruments in MIM’s collection, representing every country in the world, were selected for fine construction, the reputation of their makers, special provenance, or connections to famous performers. In addition to acquiring objects through purchase and gifts, MIM’s curatorial staff has traveled extensively to collect instruments and artifacts that convey the diversity of cultures and global musical practices. To date, MIM has collected more than 12,000 instruments and objects, and plans to display 3,000 items at the grand opening.
“Building this collection isn’t just a curatorial mission, it’s an adventure,” said MIM President and Director Bill DeWalt. “Our curatorial team has literally searched the world to collect diverse instruments that will spark the imagination of our guests, demonstrating the breadth of our musical heritage.”
MIM’s vast collection will be highlighted in Geo-Galleries that focus on five global regions, as well as in a special Artist Gallery that features noteworthy instruments played by many of the world’s leading musicians.
The Africa and Middle East gallery will present musical instruments from 47 sub-Saharan and 21 North African and Middle Eastern nations. Guests will explore the ancient royal court music of Rwanda and Burundi; the drums and brass trumpets of Benin’s vodun spiritual tradition; the imzad fiddles of Niger’s female musicians; and an array of instruments from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The gallery will also feature many variations of the lute-like oud and diverse traditions employing mallets, harps, zithers, flutes, and trumpets from the entire region.
The Asia & Oceania gallery will feature instruments from 50 countries and island groups, displayed in five sub-galleries devoted to the regions of East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Oceania, and Central Asia and the Caucasus. MIM guests will experience the tradition of the Beijing Opera, a rare Javanese gamelan orchestra, a recreation of a gong workshop, and an exploration of the revival in traditional instrument-making of the Maori people of New Zealand.
Featuring musical instruments from 47 countries, the Europe gallery will invite guests to explore musical settings as varied as a Renaissance chapel in Munich, a French revolutionary military parade, a late 19th-century Catalonian kitchen, and a contemporary Ukrainian wedding procession. Highlights will include the display of a symphony orchestra (c. 1850); a special focus on Adolphe Sax, the Belgian inventor of the saxophone; a “visible organ” commissioned especially for MIM to show the inner workings of the instrument; and an exhibit examining the traditions of the nomadic Roma people.
The Latin America and the Caribbean gallery will feature instruments and ensembles from 39 nation-states and territories displayed in three sub-galleries: the Caribbean, South America, and Central America and Mexico. MIM guests will experience instruments common to the whole region, as well as unique variations developed by individual social groups. Throughout the gallery, the influence of European colonization and American innovation will be juxtaposed with indigenous instruments like flutes and panpipes.
In contrast to the other Geo-Galleries, exhibits in the United States/Canada gallery will be organized by musical genre. Ranging from West Coast Taiko drumming to East Coast hip-hop, the 36 displays in the United States/Canada gallery will explore traditional and popular sounds from the Arctic to the Mexican border. Guests will experience the diverse array of instruments that shaped the North American musical experience, including the Appalachian dulcimer, sousaphone, ukulele, and electric guitar. The music of native peoples in the United States and Canada will also be highlighted in eight displays exploring old and modern musical traditions, with instruments such as the water drum, raven rattle, and the Apache violin. Special displays will also highlight iconic American musical instrument manufacturers, including Fender guitars, Martin guitars, and Steinway pianos.
MIM’s Artist Gallery will feature musical instruments linked to world-renowned musicians and music innovators, as well as video of concert footage, photographs, costumes, and other special items. Highlights will include the piano on which John Lennon composed “Imagine,” a guitar and stage costume from world music superstar King Sunny Adé, and an oud from Palestinian master musician Simon Shaheen. “King of the Surf Guitar” Dick Dale’s rare collection of Fender amplifiers, keyboards, and transformers will be on extended loan, as well as the trumpet he used in the solo played on “Miserlou.” The gallery will also feature objects from international pop music superstar and Black Eyed Peas drummer Keith Harris. The gallery will also include famous instruments, such as one of the enormous drums played at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the oldest known Steinway piano, which was built in the kitchen of Henrich Engelhard Steinweg’s home in Seesen, Germany, in 1836.
To provide additional input on its curatorial vision, MIM has assembled a Curatorial Council composed of representatives from some of the most important musical instrument collections in the world. Council members include: Cynthia Adams Hoover, Curator Emeritus, Musical Instruments Division of Cultural History, Smithsonian Institute; J. Kenneth Moore, Frederick P. Rose Curator in Charge, Department of Musical Instruments, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Darcy Kuronen, Curator of Musical Instruments, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Gary Sturm, Chairman Emeritus, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Division of Music, Sports and Entertainment; Patricia Grazzini, Deputy Director, Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Eric De Visscher, Director, Musée de la musique, Paris; and Margaret Downie Banks, Senior Curator of Musical Instruments, National Music Museum, University of South Dakota.
The $150 million, 190,000-square-foot Musical Instrument Museum broke ground in February 2008 on a 20-acre site in north Phoenix. Designed by award-winning architect Richard Varda and the Minneapolis and Phoenix firm RSP Architects, MIM features a distinctive architecture that evokes the topography of the Southwest, suggests the museum’s international scope, and expresses the universal role of music across all cultures.
The façade of the museum features a richly textured Indian limestone known as “teak stone” which complements and blends with the surrounding desert colors. As guests approach the building entrance, they will pass through a courtyard landscape designed by the leading firm of Ten Eyck Landscape Architects of Phoenix and Austin. Desert plantings and arroyo environments will surround the museum, creating a serene and welcoming oasis. The courtyard will feature a rotating bronze sculpture of blended instrumental forms titled “Phoenix” by Belgian artist Louis Halleaux, as well as a series of simple pools of water that add a calm appeal to the space, similar to the small pools of water found in an Arizona canyon.
The two-story museum structure includes 75,000 square feet of gallery space, with a 450-foot-long flowing river-like corridor called “El Rio” that creates the spine of the museum, links the central atrium to the interior galleries, and offers changing views of the space. Wall finishes in Venetian plaster create patterns that evoke geological striations of the Arizona cliffs and canyons and allude to the rhythms of musical composition. The flooring is an Italian porcelain tile laid in a striated pattern and the ceilings feature light coves accented with linear light fixtures that move down the “El Rio.” Diffused daylight illuminates the galleries and public spaces through a ribbon of windows and skylights that will glow and animate the building at night, in an abstract pattern much like piano keys.
In addition to guest services (the admission desk, coat room, museum store, and information desk) and the Artist Gallery, the first floor of MIM also houses an Orientation Gallery that introduces guests to the rich diversity of forms, materials, and usage of instruments around the globe, as well as a conservation lab. The Target Gallery for Special Exhibitions will host temporary and touring exhibitions such as “American Sabor,” which traces the Latin American influences in North American pop music and will open in 2011.
The first floor also features the Experience Gallery, a hands-on space where guests can play many of the types of instruments that they have seen elsewhere in the museum. The Experience Gallery is adjacent to a classroom space that will house special workshops, programs, and activities. MIM will also provide group tours for guests of all ages and field trips for school groups. Other educational programming will include demonstrations and performances by musicians, family-friendly music festivals, and lecture series and classes for lifelong learners.
A dynamic spiral staircase, featuring a unique floor mosaic map of the world created with multi- colored stones from around the world and topped with an oculus skylight, draws guests upstairs. The second floor is devoted to MIM’s extensive core collections, arranged in five Geo-Galleries that feature soft maple wood flooring and cherry wood doorway portals, hinting at the transition between geographical regions as guests pass through the galleries.
Spanning the two floors of the museum is an intimate, 299-seat performance theater. Designed with spacious seating and state-of-the-art acoustics, the hall will be a premier venue for performances, films and seminars about musical traditions from around the world. Upon entering the performance theater, low stone walls and a stone-colored maple wood stage greet guests, again evoking the stone of the Arizona canyons. MIM will present a full schedule of diverse programming, including concerts and events featuring renowned world music artists. (MIM’s inaugural season schedule will be announced in the coming months.) An adjacent recording studio with cutting-edge equipment will allow MIM to capture live recordings of many of the performances in the theater.
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