By Kathryn Sukalich on Jun 20, 2013

See the Recycled Orchestra's Amazing Instruments Made from Trash

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Paraguay’s Recycled Orchestra, a children’s musical group that plays instruments made from upcycled trash, will be featured in the documentary “Landfill Harmonic” which is slated for release in 2014. The film will tell the story of a music teacher and a trash picker in the city of Cateura who teamed up to find a way to teach economically disadvantaged kids to play music even though they didn’t have access to enough musical instruments.

Now, a selection of instruments from the Recycled Orchestra including a violin, cello, saxophone and trumpet will be on display in Phoenix’s Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), where the public can not only look at the recycled instruments up close, but also see photographs and watch video from the documentary’s filmmakers. Click through to see a selection of the instruments on display:

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A viola made from a tin paint container, recycled wood and a fork as a tailpiece is on display in MIM’s Recycled Orchestra exhibit. Photo: MIM

“This is a very unique [exhibit] here because the instruments are violins and cellos, things that are familiar to western audiences and are considered representative of high art,” Dr. Daniel Piper, curator of musical instruments at MIM, told Earth911. “Here we have two guys from Paraguay who’ve never made violins before, and they’re making these violins from recycled materials that sound good enough to put together an orchestra with children.”

The instruments incorporate everything from tin paint containers to chest X-ray films and spatulas.

MIM began working with the filmmakers of “Landfill Harmonic” in 2011, partially because one of the filmmakers is a Phoenix native. The museum also became interested in the project because the recycled instruments tie in well with other instruments on display at the museum, according to Piper.

“The idea of repurposing materials that are part of your everyday culture has been something that a lot of cultures have done for thousands of years,” Piper explained.

For example, gourds used for carrying water were made into stringed instruments or percussion instruments in many traditional cultures. More recently, in the twentieth century, people began using trash from industry to make instruments. Steel drums made from 55-gallon oil barrels, which are common instruments throughout the Caribbean, are one example of this practice. Some instruments like these are on display at the museum, so the instruments in the Recycled Orchestra aren’t the only repurposed instruments around.

Their story is unique, though, and they do use some truly original materials. The viola pictured above, for example, is made from an upcycled paint container, wood and a fork.

Homepage Image: Kathryn Sukalich, Earth911

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