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article imageMaking music with vegetables

By Lynn Curwin     Jun 30, 2011 in Entertainment
Vienna - Members of a Vienna-based orchestra don't always eat their vegetables, sometimes they create music with them - and now they're working with a scientist to grow the right instruments.
The Vegetable Orchestra, which has been performing in concert houses around the world for 13 years, was approached by Wolfgang Palme, from the Horticultural College and Research Institute Schönbrunn, who is a big fan of vegetables.
"Vegetables are extraordinary," the New Scientist quoted him as saying.
Palme thought gourds would be a good choice for trumpets and guitars because they can be dried and used over and over. He is growing the seeds of some varieties that grow in trumpet and guitar-like shapes in an outdoor garden.
He is also encouraging about 20 plants to grow into the desired shape by using moulds, an ancient technique which was used in China to create drinking vessels. Orchestra members made plaster casts of trumpet shapes, and bought a cheap ukelele to use as a mould.
Palme believes that he can create strings for the guitar from cucumber or melon plants.
The orchestra was formed by a group of people from various musical backgrounds who had previously worked together. The musicians say they are serious about their music, and the orchestra is not a just-for-fun project.
They constantly develop new instruments, and sometimes combine two ideas and create a new instrument. Some are easier to make than others, with the carrot recorder being one of the most elaborate.
"It is hard to play on bad or non-fresh vegetables as they prove to be unreliable," states the information on the Vegetable Orchestra website. "You can't play on a rotten cucumber or on a small pumpkin... if an instrument breaks just before or during a solo for example, it is often because of a low quality vegetable."
They purchase their produce at local markets, and say the plastic-packaged vegetable found at supermarkets are unsuitable as instruments.
Most of the pieces they play are compositions they have developed as a group, although there is room for improvisation.
"We believe that we can produce sound that cannot be (easily) produced by other instruments," say orchestra members. "You can hear the difference. It sometimes sounds like animals, sometimes just like abstract sounds."
Pieces of vegetables left over after creating instruments go into a soup which is served to the audience after a concert.
"There are no musical boundaries for the Vegetable Orchestra," states the information on the orchestra's Facebook page. "The most diverse music styles fuse here - contemporary music, beat-oriented House tracks, experimental Electronic, Free Jazz, Noise, Dub, Clicks'n'Cuts - the musical scope of the ensemble expands consistently, and recently developed vegetable instruments and their inherent sounds often determine the direction."
Palme said that vegetables have a reputation for being boring, but he hopes that the project will catch the attention of other artists and craftspeople, and give vegetables some positive publicity.
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