The MIM

I wasn’t too interested in Sue’s suggestion of going to Brussels’s Musical Instruments Museum as it didn’t sound particularly exciting but I’m glad I did. We spent the whole afternoon from half twelve to closing time just strolling around the exhibits and listening to the recordings.

Important note – if you do go to MIM, or in fact any museum that hands out portable sound systems, take headphones. What really made the experience was clear stereo sound and not having to hold up the large lump of plastic to my ear as I walked around (which had the knock-on effect of freeing up my hands to take pictures).  The entrance cost is €8, or free with a Brussels card. Location is next to the Royal Palace.

Although the museum does consist of hundreds of static exhibits in glass cabinets, which sounds dull, there are many weird and wonderful musical instruments that I’d never seen – or heard – before. I’ll try and explain why these caught my attention with some photos – flash photography was not allowed so not everything could be captured with the available light conditions.

Ocarinas

These can’t be musical instruments. Surely they are just props stolen from a 50s SF B-movie. Although I was none the wiser as to how you would use this device, I did gain understanding about what the title of “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” referred to.

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The positions of the holes, over which I assume you place your fingers, seemed to require an unnatural hand posture. Unfortunately this useful pamphlet was also under glass so I couldn’t work out the mechanics myself.

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Luckily I have YouTube to see how it works:

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The Higheghe, or Trumpet-Violin

This was the first of several instruments I saw that seemed to be the result of someone sticking random bits together. So you have a violin … and a trumpet. What could you do with those? Of course, it’s so obvious!   

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Of course, there was a sensible reason for this hybrid – being able to direct the violin sound made recording much easier in the early days.

Pan Pipes

Is there an instrument more ridiculed than the Pan Pipes?  

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Instruments as Martial Arts weapons

To you, it’s a tambourine but in the hands of an expert it becomes a lethal dispenser of  hira-shuriken.

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Dudy (Polish Bagpipes)

This looks more like a steampunk jet-pack than a musical instrument (and it’s a stretch to include bagpipes in such a category). 

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Cowbells

You can never have enough of these.

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Bones

It’s good to see England bringing a touch of high tech to the museum.

“We’ll be saying a big hello to all intelligent lifeforms everywhere and to everyone else out there, the secret is to bang the rocks together, guys.”

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Glass Harmonica

A stack of forty glass bowls with a spindle or bar through the centre, dated back to around 1786. Basically a fancy version of the principle of rubbing a finger around the rim of wine glasses filled with different amounts of water. As used by Aerosmith, KoRn and Björk.

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Rock and |Roll

12-string guitars? That is just so ‘60s. 1760s.

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Harpsichord AND Virginal

A rather impressive 400 year old piece of art by Joannes Ruckers that is a delight to look at and listen to, even without taking into account how sophisticated the construction is.

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Artwork that’s a bit more down-to-earth

The artwork for the lid of this keyboard instrument was a lot more realistic. Seems somewhat strange, though, to have had this theme on display in your home. 

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Cabinet Organ

This instrument uses a facade to hide the true workings – the gold-painted tubes in front are purely for decoration and only by peeking in-between can you see the huge array of plain-but-functional musical pipes behind.

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Never let the roadie fix your guitar

It was the last night of the tour so the orchestra smashed up their kit and departed the stage for the after-gig party, leaving the roadie to clear up …

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Torture Devices

Haven’t quite got the finger spread or flexibility to play the harpsichord? No problem; we can fix that…

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