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Home » ARTSY FARTSY » JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Story–Date with Pearl and (147 ) ARTSY–Music to my Ears and Eyes

JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Story–Date with Pearl and (147 ) ARTSY–Music to my Ears and Eyes

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PEARL

Miss Reader is now solid pink as she continues.  “Now, children, the next few organs we’re going to discuss have to do with that great process of life called ‘reproduction.’”

I say to Pearl, “You know what she means, baby!”  Pearl is like solid ice, while Esther Jane, three tables away, is laughing and nudging Alex Josway.

Miss Reader says, “Please take your red and your green dye, and if you have a female frog, I want you to use the green, if you have a male frog, use your red.”  She pulls down a chart.  “Here are the two types.”

I look down at the frog and I look up at the chart and I say to Pearl, “It’s a chick!”

Pearl says nothing.  We continue to dissect, and without any warning, Pearl walks up to Miss Reader’s desk, bends over, and says something.  Miss Reader looks at me and says, “Jean, will you please leave Pearl alone.”

What have I done?  I’ve just been ol’ funny Jean.  Pearl comes back with that snotty, girl look.

That minute, a great love begins to grow.  This is totally different, this is completely out of my context.  We all fall in love with that which does not fall in the neighborhood.  We are all secretly in love with that strange, exotic thing.

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MUSICAL SOUNDS AND STRUCTURES

I’m fascinated by the way the physical structures and looks of objects are related to their functions. Astrolabes, skeletalized watches, and musical instruments are examples. That’s what led me to take classes in making a Japanese flute and a classical guitar. Thus, an exhibit on the nature of musical instruments is of special interest to me.

In 1980, the American Museum of Natural History decided to do a large temporary exhibit on music. They chose Professor of Ethnomusicology and Musicology, Dr. William Malm, a recognized authority on the anthropology of music, and a professor at Ann Arbor’s University of Michigan, as the guest curator, and chose me, the Museum’s Senior Exhibit Designer, to design the project.

At Museum expense, I traveled to discuss the new exhibit with Dr. Malm in Ann Arbor to see the University’s musical instrument display.

In Ann Arbor I Received from Dr. Malm

“Zen Lesson” on a Japanese No Drum.

There have been many recent books and exhibits on the general subject of music and instruments. In addition to the books quoted below, and dozens of others I own on music and dance, I have a two-page carbon copy of an earlier exhibit proposal (1960), by American Museum anthropologist, Colin Turnbull, that begins:

The purpose of the exhibition is twofold. Firstly, and very simply, to give the public the opportunity to see, in one room, some of the many musical instruments which the Museum has collected from all over the world during the past half century. Secondly, by dividing the instruments into four classes, to show how widespread has been man’s determination to make music, and how great his genius in producing an infinite variety of sound while using the simplest materials and tools.

A Metropolitan Museum of Art “Bulletin” publication (Oct./Nov. 1971) begins its article:

A motto frequently painted on keyboard instruments of the Renaissance says: “Pleasing to ear and eye alike.” This sums up two aspects inherent in musical instruments: their function as machines producing organized sound, and their aesthetic appeal to the eye, as treasures of art.

“Eyewitness Books” Music, (1989) one of a series of museum-like, lushly illustrated books on various topics, begins:

The world of music is a kaleidoscope of sound. With most instruments it is easy to see how the different types of sound are made….Playing an instrument makes part of it vibrate rapidly back and forth. The vibration produces sound waves in the air, which travel to our ear.

A book by “The Diagram Group,” Musical Instruments of the World (1976) is “…an illustrated encyclopedia with more than 4,000 original drawings.” It’s described as “…the most comprehensive illustrated reference to all the musical instruments in the world.” This book is my basic source of information on the forms and names of instruments. At the front of the book, their “Classification” diagram shows the types of instruments

[Click on diagram to enlarge]:

For various administrative causes, our director decided to cancel the exhibit.  Based on Dr. Malm’s first written outline, my rough, early design shows how it might have been organized:

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