Making beautiful music from recycled junk

Fri Aug 19, 2011 2:44pm EDT
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By Joanne Allen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It's all junk -- until it's not.

Clay flowerpots, a washtub, garbage cans, assorted kitchenware, an old futon frame, circular saw blades, cast iron skillets and more.

What may look like clutter piling up on a small stage at Washington's Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is junk that has been given a second life as finely tuned, amplified musical instruments played by the New York-based group, Electric Junkyard Gamelan.

"Believe it or not, the frying pans are all pitched," musician, composer, and instrument maker Terry Dame said, pointing to a black cast iron skillet standing upright on its handle near the front of the stage.

Dame is the leader of the veteran musicians who have been performing together as the Electric Junkyard Gamelan since 2000. The band members, ranging in age from 31 to 51, include drummer Lee Free, bass player Mary Feaster and Julian Hintz, a classically trained percussionist.

Dame built all of the band's unusual instruments.

"I'm a fabricator... I just love to make things with my hands," she told Reuters as the group prepared for a recent concert on the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage.

Most of strange-looking contraptions taking shape on the stage bear little resemblance to musical instruments as we know them, although some of the names may sound vaguely familiar.   Continued...

<p>Terry Dame, leader of the group Electric Junkyard Gamelan, speaks in front of music instruments she made herself, at the Kennedy Center in Washington August 12, 2011. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas</p>