"The Magical Instrument Tour is dying to take you away!"
|Accordion (above) and acoustic guitars at the Musical Instrument Museum.|
I have to admit, I wondered myself how the intensely personal experience of a musical performance could be properly represented by a static exhibit of the implements. But MIM doesn't just hang the instruments on the wall and leave it be. First of all, they gather the finest instruments, symbolic of the finest music of the world, and display them in ways that make us, the observers, realize the inherent beauty and craftsmanship. Just like a good pen with a smoothly flowing nib helps us write more beautifully, a good instrument can serve as its own muse. The first exhibit I saw in the museum, contained guitars ranging from traditional Gibsons to plastic molded star-guitars. (And if a star-guitar doesn't inspire you to rock out, I'm not sure what will.)
The museum curators totally pull out their inner rock star by enhancing the exhibits with indigenous recordings of live performances, displayed in short vignettes on a video screen. The performers are often even using the instruments that we're looking at!
But before we even got to see most of the exhibits, the group I was with watched a short introductory video. This is where the museum administrators got all philosophical about what they were doing, and claimed that we would "stand in awe to the pageant of human life." That "If we do not feed the music, some portion of us will starve." And "Music, its meaning and its instruments are the wellspring of human culture."
It was good food for thought as we went around and looked at all the implements of culture. Many governments have tried to suppress music--but it's just not possible. People's creativity in making instruments is unmatched, and their desire to express themselves through sound is irrepressible.
One of the best things about the museum, though, was that it didn't exclusively exhibit "serious art." Yes, classical music was well-represented. But there were also displays on bluegrass, electronic music, hip hop and salsa. It's a great way to bring all the forms of music onto the same playing field--and to realize that it serves the same purpose, no matter who is playing it.