Museum of Musical Instruments


Yesterday we made a most amazing find.  The Musical Instrument Museum next to the Royal Palace in Brussels.  This is becoming a habit for us.  In Almaty, Kazakhstan and even in Athens, Greece on our honeymoon, we stumbled upon tiny musical instrument museums with amazing old folk instruments.  Each time it has proven to be a highlight of our trip, and this time was no exception.

There are several reasons this is one of the best museums I’ve ever visited.

1) I have visited very few museums

2) Music is awesome

3) Musical instruments have a unique ability to communicate cultural and historical context, just by their look and feel

4) This is an extremely extensive and rich collection, from ancient to less ancient, and from all over the world

5) The interaction design of the museum is f-ing genius!

We received a modified iPhone to carry around, which automatically plays the music of whatever instrument you are standing in front of.  So simple, and yet SO powerful.  We spent a few hours exploring, and all 4 of us were completely engaged that entire time.  Truly amazing.

I took way too many photos.  Here are a few, illustrating some of the extent of the collection:

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Enjoying the sounds.


An entire sheep’s body?

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I count 24 pegs….

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 I want me a hurdy gurdy more than I can say!

– – – – – INTERMISSION – – – – –



Lunch at the rooftop cafe:


We ventured up to the roof, lured by the smell of something good.  We found some good food and a beautiful sunny view.





“SAX200 is an exhibition in the Musical Instruments Museum in Brussels about the life and works of Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone, on the occasion of his bicentenary (Dinant, 1814 – Paris, 1894)”

After lunch we explored the remaining two rooms.  I must say I really don’t care much for the saxophone.  I love all sorts of music, but the sax just doesn’t really do it for me.  However, this exhibit is still entirely impressive.  Check out some of these instruments!



Some crazy originals….


What is this even for??

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Original Sax-cloche symphonique.  A symphonic clock bell?  I have no idea.


Sax-Mahler connection.


And a letter from the British patent office granting his patent on the saxophone.  Neat.

Sound Lab


The final room was on the basement level.  I thought it might be a kids’ area because it was called the Sound Lab.  I was initially disappointed that there weren’t any interactive exhibits (I still would argue that they could have made the theramin an interactive exhibit, since you don’t actually touch it to play it anyway).  But it was plenty awesome for what it was.

This is the room with all the music machines.  From music boxes to organs, magnetic tape recorders to synthesizers, and the aforementioned theramin.  Again, it is far less impactful without the soundtrack, but here is a taste of what we saw:

















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