The Guilty Party

Sunday, July 18, 2010


This summer has been one of exploration. We have gotten to a point in our lives where we have gone beyond recognizing that time is not infinite and now we are actually doing something about it, circumstances be damned. Or at least as damned as possible without completely ruining our credit score.

Anyway, we haven't exactly become world travelers, but we have tried to take advantage of what is out there and reasonably affordable. No time like the present for expanding ones horizons, right? We will kind of go backwards a bit in reviewing the summer so far as I have been remiss in not updating "Sketches" as I should, but today I have not only the material but the precious time to share with you the excursion around the world we took today courtesy of the Musical Instrument Museum right here in Phoenix.

In the midst of one of the Valley's typical, miserable summers, the options available are pretty much Stay At Home and Sweat, Go Somewhere Else and See What a Livable Summer Is Like, or Find Something Interesting To Do Inside. Well, we have done a bit of each, with the MIM filling the third bill quite nicely.

Located just off the 101 Freeway on Tatum Blvd., The MIM is a beautiful facility housing what is reported to be the largest collection of musical instruments in the world. They have stuff from Burkina Faso, Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Italy. And about a hundred other countries besides. You wander around with little headphone dealies that link up with the videos playing in almost all of the exhibits. (There are still a few under construction at this time, including Australia. I was bummed 'cause I really was in the mood for a little Men at Work). And what you come away with is an appreciation of what is at once the diversity and the unity of music making in this crazy world of ours. The unity can be found not only in the fact that no matter where we come from, no matter what our political persuasion, religious affiliation or preferred shape of pasta (I'm a linguine man, myself), we all have a need for music in our lives, but that certain instrument forms are found all over the globe. You like the guitar? Cool, you'll find guitars or something that looks and sounds a whole lot like 'em in just about every culture. Strings and a sounding board can be found everywhere. You like drums? Well, they're even more ubiquitous than guitars. Poor countries may not have many pianos, but they sure as heck have a lot of hammered zither things and that just a piano with the outside stripped away and a more direct connection with the strings.

We left there wanting to hear more. But more importantly, we left there wanting to know why in the hell we can't make more music and less war. Music and dance=good. War=crappy. What's not to get?

Some of the instruments were flat out gorgeous.

Some are historically significant. This is the "Kitchen" Steinway piano. The first Steinway ever. Dig it.

Even Lichtenstein has an exhibit. It's small, but it's there.

These Mongolian musicians sounded really fine. And the setting looks nice too.

Can you say "gamelan"? I knew you could.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Gibson Johnny Smith model that George Benson played on "Breezin". The actual, factual guitar. How neat is that?

Almost as neat as the fact that they have Eric Clapton's original "Brownie" Stratocaster. Quite possibly the most revered guitar in all of rock and roll.

If you're like us, you're going to be there for a while, so it's a good thing they have a really nice place to have lunch. This is what my father-in-law had. Right above his Beef Bourguignon on whole wheat pasta  is the Southern Bourbon Pecan Pie four of us had for desert. It was, in his words, worth the trip all by itself.

And it was just as much of a good thing that they have a hands on place where you can pluck, strum and smack a wide variety of instruments yourself. Because I'm telling you, it's tempting as all get out to reach into the exhibits and sound a few forbidden notes.

Even the most avid music fan can get tuckered out in the place like The Musical Instrument Museum. Good thing there was a Dad Shoulder available for a micro-nap.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

(It's good to be back)

A Bit About Me

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I am a writer with a longtime interest in photography. I'm a dad, husband, photographer, and not very good guitarist. My first novel, Boomerang, is available in both paperback and ebook form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and As a matter of fact, my second novel, The Baer Boys, can be found at exactly the same places.