How landfill waste inspired a symphony

Landfill waste turned into musical instruments for Recology's musical artist / composer Nathaniel Stookey

Landfill waste turned into musical instruments for Recology’s musical artist / composer Nathaniel Stookey

Music is the universal language. It soothes humans and animals alike. Its beauty inspires us, lifts us up. But what inspires composers to write their music?

Perhaps the last answer you’d ever consider would be trash. Yet that’s exactly what inspired composer Nathaniel Stookey to write his symphony, aptly named Junkestra.

Stookey, a composer of theatrical and vocal music, spent 104 days at the San Francisco dump. The result? He wrote a symphony and made instruments scavenged out of garbage that were used to perform his masterpiece.

Stookey was one of the artists who participated in Recology’s Artist in Residence programThey built Stookey an amphitheater out of recycling and compost bins right at the dump. This is where he performed three concerts of his symphony.

” The Program pays artists to make art from garbage. (It) is a unique and powerful way to get people to think about their own garbage and about the importance of recycling and composting,” says Robert Reed, Recology’s public relations manager.

The program is much loved by Bay Area residents, says Reed. On cold Friday night in January 900 people will go down to the San Francisco dump to see an exhibition of art made from garbage.

“It is the only place in the country that happens,” he said.

Watching and listening to Stookey’s symphony turns your perception upside down of what “trash” really is. The real waste is perhaps our inability to see its real potential. In the hands of someone with a vision and some creativity, our waste can become something that inspires us. It’s time to rethink things and not waste our trash.


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