Turning Discarded Objects into Musical Instruments as a Message for The Environment.
Stijn Claeys / Musician and Engineer
Giving Waste a Second Life, Never to be Tossed Again.
Stijn Claeys is a full-time engineer, but also the driving force behind Trashbeatz. He recognizes that the growing environmental awareness in Europe brings all the more attention to Trashbeatz and appreciation for what it does. He shared with us his experience in linking environmental issues with music.
Melodic instruments repurposed from waste were a game-changer.
After university I started working as an engineer at a tech company in Belgium. As I did, I was determined to keep Trashbeatz going. Clueless at things like publicity, I struggled to find an original way to promote Trashbeatz as a concept band in the early days. We would do anything to gain opportunities to perform. Once we even enrolled ourselves into a rock contest purely as a percussion band. Over time our efforts paid off. People started to appreciate our singular appearance and concept. More opportunities to play opened up for us, usually as street performers or as a feature band during set changes at music festivals.
Our big turning point came when we created our first melodic instrument. At last we were equipped to break through the limits of a percussion band. Melodic instruments have an awesome power. When audiences hear the harmonious tones emanating from our instruments, they recognize the tremendous potential that discarded junk can offer. We also got a boost from the growing awareness of environmental issues in Europe in the second half of the 2000s. With our environmental theme to back us, we attracted crowds of people in the street and generated keen public interest in issues like recycling at our workshops and concerts in Belgium, France, and Germany.
Aspiring to one day create a full orchestra of waste-reclaimed instruments.
So far we have completed just over 10 instruments. As we go forward, we aim to expand our musical repertoire by developing a new instrument every year. This year we have repurposed a discarded tennis racket into a guitar (photo below). Soon we hope to find a fourth Trashbeatz member to play it. Next year we plan to make a saxophone from plastic waste. Our sounds are definitely enriched and expanded as we add more instruments to play melodies and chords. It would be wonderful to one day build a full orchestra of waste-reclaimed instruments.
Turning household waste into musical instruments can become a complicated task. The most difficult part is getting the discarded objects to produce reliable pitches.
We managed to play a scale with shampoo bottles, for example, by aligning them in a keyboard-like formation and expelling air from them through narrow plastic tubes. The shapes and sizes of the bottles in this arrangement directly affected the pitch. The elasticity of the plastic is also important to achieve a stable pitch. Finding a suitable material from what we have available is a long process of trial and error. In some cases it has taken us several years to build a single instrument. The process takes up much of my spare time, what little remains after our Trashbeatz performances. I love it and would have no other way.
Music as a friendly medium to spread environmental messages.
Using waste to create musical instruments is not mere recycling, but “upcycling,” a treatment that adds value to used and reclaimed objects. Musical instruments, even if it is no longer played, are never thrown away.Instead we might hang the instrument up on a wall as a decoration, or pass it on to a young relative. A musical instrument made out of rubbish takes on added significance, because now that former piece of rubbish can never be thrown away.
We will continue playing our original instruments made from waste to raise awareness of the great potential in the resources that end up in waste disposal. I think of music as a friendly means to get messages across. People listen not only to the sounds, but also the messages the musicians express. We tell our story through waste materials that are given a new lease on life and take on value as musical instruments. We will keep up our hard work to promote the unique Trashbeatz concept to a wider world. One day, we hope, Trashbeatz will spread its message by releasing an album and taking it on a world tour.
- Stijn Claeys / Musician and Engineer
- Stijn Claeys from Ghent, Belgium, is a full-time engineer working in a high-tech company. He is also the leader and percussionist of Trashbeatz, a band that creates original instruments from waste materials. The band plays their instruments in white protective suits and gas masks. They perform to raise awareness of the finite resources of the planet. One day they hope to release an album and stage a world tour to spread their message far and wide.