Walking through the doors, visitors are greeted by a collage of photos and videos, capturing different cultures and their various musical tastes. Inside the collage, the simple quote, “Music is the language of the soul,” lines the wall, which sets the tone for the rest of the museum. When guests purchase tickets, they are also handed a small listening device and a pair of headphones.
After flicking the device on, every part of the museum comes to life. Whenever a visitor steps close enough to an exhibit, their
headphones sync with the video playing there. Suddenly they hear the instruments surrounding the display come to life; they see the hanging costume proudly worn by a musician or dancer. Suddenly, they learn about a culture in a much more intimate way than most ever get to experience.
The majority of the exhibits are located in the upper section of MIM, which is divided into different cultural regions. These regions include: Africa, the Middle East, Central, South, East and Southeast Asia, Oceania, Latin America, Europe, the United States and Canada. Each room encapsulates the day-to-day differences of life in various countries while also giving access to the unique ways people express themselves through music.
For instance, there are noticeable differences and similarities in indigenous tribes in both Africa and America, just as there are in high-tech, modern city life in Tokyo and London. Guests see some of their favorite artists, as well as musicians they probably would never hear of otherwise. New art forms and music come to life, all by merely stepping closer and wanting to learn more.
After taking the stairs back down to the main level, a granite map arranged at the bottom of the staircase ties together each region viewed (and heard) above. The rooms downstairs showcase music boxes and automata, as well as artists from popular culture such as The Black Eyed Peas and Taylor Swift.
But one of my favorite rooms has to be the “Experience Gallery.” Full of xylophones, bells, harps, drums, guitars and more, visitors receive the opportunity to touch (and for the more talented than I) actually play some of the instruments. While I have to say I wasn’t too bad on some of the larger xylophones, the theremin has to be my specialty. With two antennas that sense the position of the player’s hands, I could control the frequency and volume of the instrument with the flick of a finger or two.
MIM’s ground level also contains traveling exhibits. Their latest feature, “Women Who Rock,” opens October 19th. Featuring the works of stars like Aretha Franklin and Lady Gaga (her preserved meat dress is rumored to be traveling with the exhibit). I’m hoping to review the exhibit this upcoming month!