Making Mountain Music at Saturday Family Art Labs!

I think we can all agree that New York city is going through an excruciatingly hot spell. All the better to spend an afternoon in our “cool” museum and Education Center learning about Himalayan musical instruments and making damarus at our Saturday Family Art Lab.

We began the workshop by exploring a few of the instruments one might see in the Himalayas – damarus, sitars, ektaras, bells, singing bowls, and bansuris.  We discussed how in the Himalayas instruments are often played during celebrations or ceremonies, but when seen in artworks, they are often symbols with special meanings.

Now it was time to head to the museum to see what types of instruments we could find in the artworks.  We took a slightly different approach for this particular gallery exploration.  Instead of only exploring one gallery, we traveled to four different floors in search of musical instruments.  We began our journey looking at Ganesha on the Spiral Wall.  We were (almost) all in agreement that Ganesha looked as if he was dancing to the drummers seated next to him in the sculpture.

Up we climbed…

Next we stopped on the 2nd floor, Gateway to Himalayan Art, and found a sculpture of Bhairava holding a damaru (a small two-headed drum) in one his ten hands.  We also investigated the Looking Guide to see if we could discover the symbolic meanings behind some of the instruments we were searching for.  We discovered that the bell symbolizes wisdom and its ringing is the sound of emptiness.

We then walked up to the 3rd floor Masterworks exhibition and visited the Lukhang Murals.  There we searched for a sitar and a bell within the murals, which ended up reminding a few of us adults of a Where’s Waldo puzzle.  We completed our journey on the 4th floor, by watching a video of the Naga people’s Log Drum Pulling Ceremony.

After exploring four floors of the museum, we returned to the Art Studio to create our own damarus out of everyday materials, like masking tape and paper bowls.  We also discovered that there was a bit of a mathematical process in figuring out how to get the beads to hit exactly in the center of the drum heads.  After all problems were solved, the room became alive with the beating sound of damarus.

It was a fantastic day filled with music and air-conditioning.  I’m looking forward to next month’s Print, Print, Print! Family Art Lab where we’ll be exploring wood block printing and designing our own stamp!

Until next time…

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