October 6, 2018 – Sun City, Arizona
The 1st thing that Sue and I did this morning was go to the New York Bakery. It occupies a small building, but the variety of baked goods is staggering. There was everything from bread to pastries of every variety you could imagine to cookies to cakes. Sue bought bread, Danish, cannoli and a cherry crumb cake. I bought a cannoli cake. There goes my effort to lose weight! And, you don’t want to know how much money we spent. We had the crumb cake for breakfast and saved the pastries for tomorrow. We had the cannoli cake for supper – and when I say supper, I mean that’s all we had because we had pigged out at the Café at MIM (Musical Instrument Museum).
On the way home from the bakery, we stopped by the “World’s First Retirement Community Museum”. Sun City is home to the 1st community designed specifically for retirement living. It opened on January 1, 1960 in the brand-spanking new “seniors only” suburb of Phoenix named Sun City. The designer, Del Webb, saw this place in the hot, dry Arizona Sonoran Desert as a soothing place for oldsters with balky lungs, aching bones and a yen to get away from it all.
Its 1st model home, a white brick bungalow, has been restored to its Eisenhower-era appearance and is now the museum filled with Sun City Artifacts and Del Well mementoes. It wasn’t open on Sunday morning so we didn’t go inside. There were 5 model homes in total which reflected the 5 floor plans you could choose from.
Today, Sun City has 37,000 residents – 10,000 of which are Snow Birds who are only here from around October to March. There are 5 recreation centers which each have their own pool. Sue lives on the golf course between the 1st and 2d hole. She has a beautiful view across the course to the mountains. There are 2 new recreation centers which are in the process of being opened. There are no schools in the town, but there are 2 libraries. There is every kind of recreation activity that you can think of – book clubs, cooking clubs, cards, board games, tennis, golf, woodworking, etc. etc.
After breakfast, Alice, Sue and I went to MIM (Musical Instrument Museum). I discovered that if you are in the know, it is not The MIM, but just MIM. This is a museum which uses technology to best advantage. There are musical instruments from all over the world representing a large number of cultures. The museum is divided into sections – Africa, Middle East, Asia, Oceania, Europe, Latin America, United States/Canada, Artist Gallery and Mechanical Music. There is a conservation lab and 2 rooms where you can actually play some of the instruments. There was a grand piano in the lobby and 2 girls, about 9 or so, were playing a duet on it as we left the museum. There is also a theater where there are regular performances by various groups representing many of the cultures which are only display.
When you enter and pay your admission, you get a set of headphones and a small transmitter, I guess you would call it. The exhibit for each culture has instruments and clothing from that culture. There is a monitor mounted in each display which plays short clips of people actually in their home environment using some of the instruments on display. As you walk in front of the monitor, your headphones come alive with the music being played in the clip. As you move away the music stops until you are in front of another monitor. The transmitter always knows where you are so that you are hearing what is on the monitor you are in front of. It is really neat.
MIM is home to one of 7 Octobasses. It is one of the rarest classic instruments in existence. Few instruments go lower and are used more sparingly than the huge and strange Octobass. It was invented in 1850 by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume and was intended to bring an extremely deep rumble to the orchestra sound. The 3-stringed instrument stands between 11’ and 12’ tall which is about twice the height of a double bass. The Octobass produces sound so low that some of the notes fall outside the range of human hearing. These low vibrations can only be felt.
It is almost too large to play. The strings are too big to press with your fingers, so fretting them requires operating pedals and levers that control capo-like mechanisms to press down the strings. In fact, the octobass originally required 2 people to play: one on the bow which, though shorter than the bow of a double bass, is extremely heavy and one person working the levers.
There were 3 originally built by Vuillaume, but there are only 2 still in existence. Including contemporary, playable replicas, there are only 7 known examples of the instrument in the world. These are mostly located in museums. The octobass in MIM is tuned C0, G0, D1 which is a range that’s 2 octaves below the cello and one octave below the modern double bass. Its low C note is lower than the lowest note on an 88-key piano and beyond what most people can hear.
The Montreal Symphony Orchestra is the only orchestra that owns one of these unusual instruments, and composers still write music for it on occasion. When played today, is usually played by a single person.
We were lucky enough to be there when they played the Apollonia which is a 25’ wide mechanical orchestra. It was a treat to see and hear it play Battle Hymn of the Republic, Stars and Stripes Forever and several other military marches.
We had a leisurely lunch in the café and visited the gift shop (I was good, I didn’t buy anything) before coming home. We spent the rest of the afternoon doing our own thing until it was time for wine, cheese and crackers. We were still so stuffed from lunch and, of course, the cheese and crackers, that we didn’t want any supper. We watched some shows which Sue had recorded – Everyone Loves Raymond, Jeopardy and The Great American Read. We had cannoli cake which was really good but had too much whipped cream on it which we just scraped off. We decided that we would have more of it in the morning for breakfast.
I did a little packing so that I can get things together easily in the morning as I will start heading north and east back to Emporia tomorrow, and then it was early to bed.