As I set foot inside the National Music Museum in Vermillion, I know immediately that I am in a most unusual place. Here, I sense the spirited crowds of musicians shouldering the weight of history, like a great crescendo, bearing down on my soul.
It�s as though I am surrounded by generations of angels and saints, a family of sorts, genetically knitted together with DNA of musical expression.
This is not just any museum. Consider it home to some of �the world�s most important collections of rare, antique instruments.� Most certainly, the National Music Museum is a tribute to the genius of music making.
At this one-of-a-kind archive, the stories of carefully placed artifacts from antiquity graciously and expertly present themselves in an array of ingenuity and intellect.
Excitedly clutching a Dell touchpad and adjusting the accompanying headset, a necessary tool provided by a most helpful and courteous museum attendant, I begin to stroll nonchalantly through the galleries and hallways on two stories of the three-story circa 1910 building.
At times, I step lightly across the terrazzo floors, methodically processing from one display to the next, tapping the virtual tour-guide touchpad, which carries me along in a rhythmic pattern of encyclopedic discourse.
I am enlightened by the passion of those who took wood, ivory, brass and a sundry of other raw materials to hand-carve and craft these musical gems before me.
Like the ever blissful turning of a player piano roll or the delicate strumming of a harp in sequences of melodic sounds, this ornate place both soothes and serenades my twenty-first century sensibilities.
The Abell Gallery boasts keyboard instruments from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries, including the earliest surviving piano by a Portuguese maker, the earliest French grand piano, a pipe organ, chamber organ, chest organ, Viennese grand piano and so much more.
The Bates Gallery offers a marvelous collection of ancient harmonic instruments, while the Beede Gallery boasts exotic instruments from the jungles of New Guinea, Africa and elsewhere. Here, I spot a mid-twentieth century beaded rattle from Cameron. It�s called a Cabacca and is made from a large hallowed out gourd. There�s a West African Plucked Lamellaphra constructed of brass, iron and other metals.
As with all rooms in the National Music Museum, each display showcases unadulterated brilliance of the methods in which humankind has expressed itself musically through the ages.
With the controls at my fingertips, I travel through time, learning sophisticated intricacies of instruments made in Italy, Germany, England, Ireland, Holland, Eastern Europe, Spain, Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, America and a host of other places around the world.
My heart pounds while passing by the percussion section. Studying worn but sturdy looking drumheads, I imagine timed beats sending messages, like the tap, tap-tap, tap of Morse code, only heavier and louder, across villages and through jungles.
Now, while slowly shuffling through galleries of wind, string and brass instruments, I experience nuggets from the era of Louis XIV. Not wanting this litany of musical history to end, I saunter from European folk to 19th century American Reed Organs, pianos and the grand harmonicon.
On a high note of pleasure, I slowly float through this place, marveling at how all of these innovations came into being, admiring the sustenance and courage of their inventors.
I have come back to this shrine to music again and again. I return to remember who I am, to realize where I have come from and to see where I am headed.
Suspended in time between then and now, I am deeply grateful for the promise embodied here to future generations and for the reconciliatory nature of music � its power to redeem and renew.
A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula
Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won
first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South
Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009 and 2010 South Dakota
Press Women Communications Contest, her columns took five first-place
awards. To contact Paula, email boscodamonpaula@gmail, follow her blog at
my-story-your-story.blogspot.com and find her on FaceBook.
2011 � Copyright Paula Damon.