PHOENIX — It’s hard to imagine that soup cans, plastic paint tubs and spoons can be key pieces to musical instruments. Forks and spatulas can hold strings in place; buttons and caps fit nicely along a clarinet. An X-ray film can be stretched around a drumhead.
For about a dozen young musicians from Paraguay, materials they find at landfills are what they need to play music.
“We see in many parts of the world that have far less material resources than we have here, that music is actually valued as something that it’s essential,” said Daniel Piper, curator at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. “Something that we can’t throw away.”
The story about the Recycled Orchestra is nothing short of extraordinary. Garbage pickers in the slums of Paraguay comb through landfills to find forgettable items that, with the help of talented artists, become musical instruments. Those instruments have become a way out for dozens of kids in the poverty-stricken country.
The orchestra has been touring the world and made its American debut at MIM on Thursday. The group will also perform on Friday and Saturday.
“It’s not just a novelty to make funky instruments out of trash,” Piper said. “It’s a social movement using culture and music as a way to change one’s life and better one’s condition and give a sense of inspiration and vision.”
The visit to the museum has been packed with activities allowing the public to learn their art. Students from the Arizona School for the Arts learned how to put together their own instruments from recycled materials.
“We have wooden boards, metal coils, five-gallon bottles, laundry racks, screws, strings, cans and springs,” said Claire, one of the ASA students taking part in the instrument-making workshop.
Haley has created a rolling xylophone. She started with skateboard wheels, a plant bucket as the body that holds seven different cans inside, separated with packing tape to isolate the sound each makes.
“It’s a mix of soup and bean cans of different sizes,” she said.
Drum sets created out of milk crates, paint buckets, empty gallons of water and piping are just some of the creative ideas the orchestra is sharing in their visit.
The orchestra is performing to sold-out concerts at the museum. “It’s been so meaningful,” Piper said. During the first concert in Phoenix the orchestra received standing ovations.
The museum established a special exhibit with eight original recycled instruments from the orchestra, among them, a violin, a viola, a cello, a double bass, a flute, trumpet and saxophone. The exhibit will be formally dedicated to the group.
The museum will hold a family day Saturday during which the public can meet the group and hear performances.
The orchestra’s journey across the globe will continue, and it’s the subject of a documentary, and also on the big screen. “The Landfill Harmonic” is a documentary that follows orchestra director Favio Chavez and the artists behind the instrument-making, as they put together the group.
The film is slated to debut at festivals in January.
- The best places to celebrate Fall in Phoenix
- Infamous athletes who did the most time for their crimes
- 2016 baseball highlights, bloopers and blunders
- See how CFOs really feel about business in the Valley
- The best television shows on the internet
- A preseason guide to avoid holiday weight gain
- The 5 worst things you could do for your roof
- 6 coolest things brewing in Arizona
- The virus that keeps head and neck cancers on the rise
- State Fair ‘Kid Reporter’ has all the angles covered
- 4 important things to know about timeshare maintenance fees
- Signs of delayed car crash injuries
- The truth about sports concussions
- The Alzheimer's epidemic: Facts you need to know
- The season is here, keep your Fantasy Football team strong all season
- 8 TV shows you can't miss this fall
- Football is here: 6 tips to make this your best season ever
- Gameday recipes and beers to match
- 6 reasons the Cardinals are driven to win the Super Bowl
- The Pac-12 football season nears kickoff
- Tips to get ready for a pain-free golf season
- Protect your family with these 7 home security features
- How to train like an Olympic swimmer
- 2016 Olympics: A guide to must-see TV events
- The bride's guide to feeling your best on your wedding day
- Deciding when you need knee surgery
- Celebrating Fourth of July is much cooler in these AZ towns
- Top ten road trip bathrooms in America
- Six things causing a pain in your neck
- 5 things to make your summer move easier