Faculty News

The Epitome of MASS MoCA’s Ethic

The New York Times called the Gunnar Schonbeck instrumentarium on view at MASS MoCA’s new Building 6 “perhaps the most promising symbol of MASS MoCA’s future.”

This is the display of about 230 musical instruments handmade by Gunnar Schonbeck (1917-2005), a composer and all-around musical agitator who taught for 50 years at nearby Bennington College in Vermont. Made of all manner of found materials and objects — metal pipe, coconuts, steel barrels, rebar — these drums, xylophones and banjoes in sometimes giant sizes are marvelous sculptural objects, and most are available for visitors to play. Avant-garde in appearance and sound, they reflect Schonbeck’s view that everyone is a musician and anything can make music. Those instruments seem to be the epitome of MASS MoCA’s inclusive, multimedia, egalitarian ethic.