MIM's New Exhibit Examines the Universal Language of Drums

The Musical Instrument Museum's new exhibit explores the universal nature of drums.
The Musical Instrument Museum's new exhibit explores the universal nature of drums.
Josh Chesler

For thousands of years, the drum has been one of the most integral pieces of human civilization. It's provided a steady beat for everything from war marches and healing ceremonies to weddings and initiation rituals.

Beginning November 15, Phoenix's Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) will host its "Beyond the Beat" exhibition, containing one of the most diverse collections of drums ever seen. Featuring roughly 110 drums ranging from the remains of a 6,000-year-old ancient Chinese drum to the 1969 drum set used by Doug Clifford of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

See also: Musical Instrument Museum's "Experience Ireland" Brings Irish Traditions to Phoenix in March

MIM's New Exhibit Examines the Universal Language of Drums
Josh Chesler

"Because there's such a percussion and drumming pervasion in all societies, including Arizona, people will have a personal connection to the drums they see here," says Kathleen Wiens, the curator for the museum's European instruments. "Whether they were in the marching band or if they just bought a conga for decoration, people are connected to drums. This is a one-stop shop for all types for drums from all over the world."

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Beyond personal connections, MIM's latest exhibition holds up against any other collection of drums, both from a quantity standpoint and when discussing historical significance.

"The given nature of this is unique, not only in Arizona, but in the world," says Colin Pearson, the curator for MIM's Asian, Oceanic and Middle Eastern portions. "It tells the story of drums and the universality of drums. We have such a variety of drums. We think we know what a drum is, but there's so much more here. Not one of them is the same as any of the others."

Not only does the exhibition boast thousands of years of drumming history, but it also provides an insight into the cultures of civilizations across the globe. The intercontinental compilation is also the first exhibition gathered entirely by MIM's five curators, as opposed to a traveling collection brought in from another museum.

"This is an opportunity to see the whole world, focused on drums, in one place," says Manuel Jordán, Deputy Director and Chief Curator of MIM. "It juxtaposes different cultures side by side, so you can have realizations and questions that you never would've noticed otherwise, like 'Why did they use that material?' or "How does this drum sound different from that?' You can see that some drums are used only for the rhythm and beat, while others have tonality."

MIM's New Exhibit Examines the Universal Language of Drums
Josh Chesler

Jordán says the museum is currently working on a way for visitors to submit questions to the curators, but nothing has been finalized yet.

"Beyond the Beat" will be open from the public from November 15 through June 21, 2015. Tickets cost $10 for the exhibition alone or can be added on to general museum admission for an extra $7. Head to MIM's website or call 480-478-6000 for more information.

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