Musical Instrument Museum

At Phoenix’s newest museum, visitors can see and hear 3,000 instruments from around the world.

curator Matthew Hill of the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix

The museum’s outsize Harmony Sovereign dwarfs Curator Hill.

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Don't know a zither from a zampoña? A koto from a kanun? A Bulgarian fipple flute from a British pennywhistle? The Musical Instrument Museum sends a clarion call.

Visitors to this newest of Phoenix museums, set to open on April 24, can see and hear 3,000 instruments from every corner of the globe, among them the Steinway upright on which John Lennon wrote “Imagine,” a goatskin djembe drum from West Africa, a sneezewood xylophone from Mozambique, and a superrare 1952 Les Paul Goldtop electric guitar.

“We also have a grand harmonicon from the early 1820s,” says Curator Matthew Hill. “It’s a set of musical drinking glasses played with a wet finger. It has a wonderful, ethereal quality.” Headsets and videos let visitors enjoy performances on each instrument, and a multisensory treat awaits in a gallery where museumgoers can pick, pluck, and pound. But hands off the theremin, source of the eerie, ultraglissando sounds from 1950s sci-fi flicks. “It’s the only instrument you play without touching,” Hill says. (480) 478-6000, themim.org.

Photography by Mim/Holly Metz

This article was first published in May 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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