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  • Writer's pictureSidney Reetz

The Musical Instrument Museum (All your Octobase are belong to me) - Wanderlust 2018

The Musical Instrument Museum (All your Octobase are belong to me) - Wanderlust 2018


Hours: Open Daily 9:00am - 5:00pm Closed Thanksgiving Day Christmas Day 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

Admission Prices:

For 1-Day Passes: General $20 Teens (ages 13–19) $15 Children (ages 4–12) $10 Children (ages 3 and under) Free

Wanderlust 2018 continues with the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Before I go any further though, I have an admission to own up too: I hate Scottsdale.

There is a very good reason that Phoenix locals refer to this area of the valley as "Snobs-dale." (I guess it could be referred to as the Beverly Hills of Phoenix.) Now I'm not saying that everyone living in Scottsdale is a snob, I'm sure there are wonderful people out there. However, I've never gone to an event or store out there where I haven't felt looked down upon, hassled, rushed out of, or just ignored.

Sadly, the Musical Instrument Museum was no exception.

I'm a pretty casual person. My go-to in terms of wardrobe are a simple pair of jeans, a nice blouse, and good walking shoes. I also tend to carry a large messenger bag or purse full of note books, a novel to read, a trillion pens, my camera and other essentials. (Which is all pretty typical for a creative type to have on their person 24/7.)

I showed up during a Christmas recital that was being held outside, so I did feel a little under dressed compared to a lot of the formal wear I saw people in. However it was my bag that caused the drama.

After I paid for my entry ticket, the older woman behind the counter instructed me that I had to go to the end of the counter to have my bag checked. Having entered college post-9/11, this was no big deal to me. They wanted to check my bag for any weapons or what-not. A-Okay with me. (I've been to enough concerts to know the drill too.)

I took my bag up to two workers at the end of the table and said that I was told I had to have my bag checked. I proceeded to open my bag for the gentleman to look inside, only to have him grab it from me. I clutched onto it, not letting him have it since my wallet, phone, and keys were still inside. He informed me that he'd put it in the coat closet for me.

Thinking I'd misinterpreted my original instructions and I had the option to check my bag like a coat, I politely said that, no, I'd like to keep my bag with me and could he just security check it for me?

The gentleman looked bewildered at me and went to speak with the woman who had sold me the entry ticket. She then came over (mind you, I had three elderly people all looking down their noses at me now) and explained that my bag was "too big" to wonder the museum with. She then said that "the displays are very narrow and you could damage something."

Okay, so I'd never been to MIM before. Maybe she was right?

Not wanting to make a fuss, I started to take my valuable items and camera out of my bag. (Pretty much all but the books and notebooks.) Mind you, I had no pockets and was just holding everything in my hands. The ticket woman then gave me an annoyed sigh and said I could take my bag with me, but I "couldn't wear it in front of me or at my side. It had to be at my back so I didn't slam it into anything."

Okay, I had a messenger bag. Basically, a fabric briefcase with straps. Not an overnight camping rig with a bedroll and pans…

Annoyed with them, but keeping a level head, I thanked them, picked up my headset for the audio tours and proceeded into the entry.

I approached the first display of guitars and joined a group of other museum patrons as a docent taught them how the headsets worked. At MIM each display has a TV screen with a short range transmitter that links up to the headset as you walk by. It allows you to see and hear the instruments displayed being played in their native land by native musicians. (What a great idea!)

Now, this docent saw me join in and even talked directly to me as she went through her speech. As the other patrons wandered off, I stayed behind to look at the guitars in the first case. She then came up to me and proceeded to go off into her instruction speech again.

I used to work retail, so I know how annoying it is saying the same rehearsed speech over and over until you accidently find yourself answering your personal phone with it. So I politely thanked her but waved her off, saying that I'd overhead her just a minute before and I was okay. Turning back to the guitars, I heard that same annoyed sigh come from her before she pressed again, going into her instructional lecture.

Now, I'm not sure if she was under orders that she had to say this speech to everyone or not. So I didn't take out my irritation on her. I politely listened (yet again), thanked her aaaaaaand then stuck those head phones on as fast I could to hopefully avoid anyone else talking to me.

Thankfully that was my last interaction with anyone on MIM's staff.

However, as I wandered the galleries, I couldn't keep my ire from rising as I looked at the ten to fifteen feet between displays. I had to wonder how clumsy I must have looked to the ticket lady for her to think I'd trip that distance and somehow pile drive my bag into the guard rails and protective glass around the displays… Am I an anime character or something? I mean, I wouldn't put it past Usagi from Sailor Moon - but me?

But enough of my complaining. Onto the music!

MIM is huge! I easily spent two and a half hours there and that included me speed walking through the American and Canadian galleries. (I was getting tired and they didn't allow you to bring in bottled water - yet I couldn't find water fountains anywhere. So hydrate beforehand, I guess? Otherwise you'll spend for overpriced water in the café which you can't take back into the museum.)

The galleries are sectioned off by country with each nation being represented in its own display. While I liked this layout and understood the idea it presented, there was one drawback that I found as I wandered. After a while, everything just started to look and sound the same. That's not to say that the instruments were not unique, artistic, or interesting. It just slowly donned on me that what I was viewing and seeing was slowly compiling upon itself within my head to being nothing but white noise.

Maybe this was a personal issue, I'm not 100% sure…

There were a few stand out items that I took a keen interest in though:

The first is the Octobass, which is the first instrument you see when you enter. (Very much MIM's piece de resistance.) This is a huge, cello looking instrument that stands around twelve feet tall. There are apparently only seven in existence and it's capable of hitting notes under sixteen hertz; which is below the level humans can hear. The effect is a note you can feel, more than hear. (My camera putzed out on me, so here is a picture from MIM's website: )

Another item of note was one of the drums used at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.

When I bought my ticket, I was talked into purchasing a $7 add on ticket to the current special exhibit - Ancient Musical Treasures from Central China: Harmony of the Ancients from the Henan Museum. Outside of one item though, the extra cost wasn't really worth it in my opinion. That item is a doozie though as they have a 9,000 year old bone flute from a grave site in China. (But I'll save you the ticket price and show you a picture instead below.)

On the whole, I'm happy I finally went to MIM. While the sheer number of items might cause them to blur together, there are a number of gems in the collection that you will never forget. If you are a music student, this is a must visit destination for you. I've never seen such a vast, complete collection that dates from modern artist like Taylor Swift, all the way back to a flute from 7,000 BCE.

However, if you have a passing interest in music or the art of it, I don't think this will be the museum for you. I also do not recommend this as a destination for children. Even though the museum is child friendly with a hands-on play room, I saw too many children bored out of their minds in the galleries who were getting into mischief or asleep in their parent's arms. I even witnessed a group of teens laying claim to the one bench in the Spanish gallery as though it were a life raft in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean. (Queue teen eye rolls and bickering.)

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