Fair Woodworking

February 3, 2012

A music lovers paradise

Filed under: Fair Woodworking & Hand Tool Blog,Hand tool — fairwoodworking @ 11:36 am

If you ever find yourself in Phoenix Arizona, without something to do for the day, I may have a solution for you.

When you think of the city of Phoenix, I’d expect you would associate some pretty stereotypical things. You know, cactus, the desert, scorpions, and who knows what else.

What I never would have guessed was that it is home to a world renowned museum dedicated to music. And not just local music.

This last December while visiting family for Christmas we passed through Phoenix, and we found ourselves at the MIM (Musical Instrument Museum). I don’t spend a lot of time in museums because I have a fairly short attention span and a unique ability to embarrass my wife when I’m board, so what I’m about to describe may not be that unusual.

MIM is split up into groups based on continents. In it each country has its own display booth/booths showing the instruments for that style of music or culture. That’s pretty normal. The cool thing is that they also give you a wireless receiver and a fairly decent set of headphones to walk around with. Each booth has its own transmitter so the sounds of the booth transition as you move around.

Its a big place. Really big. A brisk window shopper would cover it in a little over an hour, but would miss out on just about everything. I tried to get to everything, but I quickly realized that I wouldn’t have enough time. I spent over 4 hours there and felt like I only scratched the surface.

I should warn you, if your musical tastes are not overly multi cultural like me, you wouldn’t want to go there with a headache. That being said, I need to expand my horizons some. I went there to expose myself to music and cultures I wouldn’t normally see or hear, and it was a good experience, but I have to admit that to my North American Ear, many traditional forms are just about un-listenable. It makes me wonder how much of music appreciation is learned through culture.

Anyways, if you can, go check it out.

The last area I went to was the North American continent. They wisely put it in the very back of the building to give the other continents more exposure.

In this area two booths stuck out for me as a woodworker. The first was provided by Steinway & Sons. They had an excellent video presentation and had clearly invested a lot of time and money into it. They also provided a beautiful piano for the main foyer area that was open to the public to play freely. What I mean by “freely” is that, there was no sign saying that the playing of “chopsticks” was forbidden. Thankfully that kind of direction was not needed. in fact at one point we were treated to some really top notch Jazz from one of the guests!

But what really drew me to this booth was a an old and very worn workbench. At first it looked to me like it didn’t really belong there.

For one, the tools and odd bits on the bench looked more artistically displayed rather than functionally. Kind of like they went into a warehouse and just grabbed interesting bits for the display. That’s not a complaint, as most people wouldn’t have a clue now that there is so little hand work in their factory.

The second thing was that the bench its self didn’t seem to suit. Why would you have a break down bench in a piano factory? It made me wonder if they just went to a second hand store looking for old stuff to give there booth the look of old standing history.

When I got closer to the bench (from the left of this picture), I discovered that behind the grime and the battle scars, there was a Steinway logo on the front stretcher. Still kind’a weird that its a breakdown…

From that angle you could see the big honk’in piano at the other side of the booth. I’m a little slow so it hadn’t clicked yet that a Grand Piano isn’t something you just take in for servicing. This bench was for doing house calls.

The other booth I liked was by Martin Guitars.

It also had a work bench, but this time it seemed much more central to the display. It also felt like it was set up by someone who understood the task a little better. To be fair, Martins assembly just seemed to lend its self to methods much closer to the old handtool ways.

For more information about this musical treasure, go to http://themim.org/

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