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Gunnar Schonbeck No Experience Required

  • Building 6, Current Exhibitions, Exhibition

  • On view now

Over a period of fifty years, Gunnar Schonbeck assembled a collection of hundreds of instruments, handmade from a diverse and unexpected range of materials. His unmistakable works include a 9-ft banjo, 8-ft tall marimba, drums made from aircraft fuselages, welded steel harps and countless steel drums, zithers, pan pipes, tubular chimes, and triangular cellos. His practice drew on a core philosophy: anyone can be a musician, and music can be made from the most ordinary of objects.


In 2011, MASS MoCA worked with Bennington College, where Schonbeck taught from 1947-2008, to move Schonbeck’s surviving instruments from the college to the museum. Over the last five years, visiting musicians to MASS MoCA, including Bang on a Can’s Mark Stewart and Wilco’s Glenn Kotche, have drawn on Schonbeck’s instruments in their performances and projects. With the restoration and renovation of B6: The Robert W. Wilson Building, MASS MoCA brings Schonbeck’s distinct approach to music-making to a wide audience, encouraging visitors and artists to play and experiment. A gallery devoted to the musicologist feels like a high school music room — outfitted with a selection of Schonbeck’s instruments available to visiting artists, MASS MoCA visitors, and local school groups.

Further Reading
Nick Brooke on Gunnar Schonbeck
“The unlikely roadtrip of Gunnar Schonbeck’s creations,” Bennington Banner (2011)
People Magazine profile (1982)