The Musical Instrument Museum’s Recycled Orchestra Exhibit
We’ve been huge fans of the Phoenix Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) since they opened their doors three years ago.
The mammoth museum features more than 5,000 instruments and artifacts from around the world.
But what makes the museum unique is that visitors tour the museum with wireless headsets to wear throughout the museum.
As guests approach each display, they can hear the instruments being played, either solo or as an ensemble. Audio and video clips familiarize guests with the unique sounds of each musical culture, allowing them to share a common experience.
It’s huge fun!
The collection includes instruments from around two hundred countries and territories in the world. Some larger countries such as India, China, Russia, the United States, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and others have multiple displays with subsections for different types of ethnic, folk, and tribal music. The instruments have both historic and artistic merit and many are more than fifty years old.
The Recycled Orchestra
We were recently invited to view the MIM’s Recycled Orchestra Exhibit. The exhibit’s instruments come from a shantytown built on a landfill in Cateura, Paraguay, where families survive by collecting and reselling garbage. In this small town on the outskirts of the country’s capital Asunción, a violin can cost more than a house.
There, visionary music teacher Favio Chávez gathered a team to search the landfill for usable materials and create instruments from recycled trash. In just a few years, their program has led to a thriving music school and a youth orchestra that performs internationally.
Made with items such as metal oil barrels, tin paint cans, old x-ray films, coins, bottle caps, spoons and plastic buttons, these instruments prove that poverty doesn’t preclude a life rich with music. The recycled instruments on display at MIM include:
- A viola made from a tin paint container, recycled wood and a fork as a tailpiece
- A violin whose body was cut from a metal commercial glue canister covered with Portuguese writing
- and symbols warning of toxic fumes
- A flute made from a tin water pipe, lock pieces and a spoon handle
- A rotary valve trumpet made from recycled metals, including worthless coins serving as valve caps
- A soprano saxophone made from a tin water pipe, metal bottle caps, plastic buttons, a metal spoon
- and fork handles
- A drum with chest x-ray films as drumheads, instead of animal skins
- A cello made from a PetroBras automotive oil container from Brazil, with used strings held in place
- by a spatula
- A double bass made from a metal calcium carbide container and bolts, with a fingerboard and scroll
- salvaged from a bass smashed in a car wreck
You know, music in the world’s international language, and it was very touching to watch the video display as members of the Landfill Harmonic proudly played their instruments from recycled garbage.
We strongly encourage you to visit the Phoenix Musical Instrument Museum. You might also want to bring some tissues with you as you are certain to be moved by the infinite will of the human spirit.
- Musical Instrument Museum
- 10 reasons why you will love the Musical Instrument Museum
- Our first visit to the Musical Instrument Museum
- Lunch at the Cafe at MIM
Disclosure: our wonderful experience was provided by the kind folks at the Musical Instrument Museum. Thanks!
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