This past year has been for most of the American people, and the world, a period of great challenge, trial, and tribulation. Many have had to deal with issues attributable to the pandemic, which has affected the lives of families and friends, while the economy, education, businesses, government, and religious worship have been diminished. The virus has changed how people live, their daily activities and relations, while having to face the daily threat of a deadly enemy.
It is regrettable that for some they have found no freedom from the virus, and the future for them seems to be a bleak and hopeless refrain, while others have resorted to life-ending measures. For those whose lives have gone through such great upheaval, was there not something, a getaway of sorts from this crisis and the hardship and bitterness it brings with it? As for myself, I have continued life as always, walked, worked, and engaged in something else that has always given me a sense of peace and solace.
Music - when was the last time you listened to a symphony orchestra performing a classical movement, or perhaps your liking is the American popular standard, or those oldies but goodies? You sit back in your easy chair and listen to the rhythm, harmony, and melody, all created and inspired by the strings, brass, woodwind, and percussion. It speaks to you in unity and continuity. And these separate and distinct elements together capture some of the beauty, magic, and mystery in life that our senses take great pleasure in. Music according to Longfellow is the universal language.
Have you ever given any thought to the instruments that deliver this magnificent testimony to human ingenuity and achievement? One can trace the origins of musical instruments back into antiquity, but those that are in use today in modern times, the shapes, materials, and aesthetic value and beauty, came mostly out of the West in the Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical/Romantic periods. And all this leads me to something that we should think about when we feel that life’s burdens are too heavy to bear.
There are parts of the world that, for one reason or another, cannot build the instruments that the more so-called advanced countries can. Like the people millennia ago, the materials, manufacturing, tools, and the monetary factor hinder less advantaged nations from creating their own music. So what does a culture or people do, listen to the music of other countries? And what of those who yearn to be involved in creating their own musical expression, but do not have access to modern accommodations. I can only imagine what life would be like without music.
Perhaps they can take a lesson, and inspiration, from the “Recycled Orchestra of Cateura.” There is a place in Paraguay, South America - Asuncion, where the children and townspeople have created their own instruments from refuse, scrap materials of the Cateura landfill; out of a slum, recycled instruments and music from rubbish. Violins made from old pans and bent forks as tailpieces, saxophones from drainpipes and bottle tops, cellos from tin drums with gnocchi rollers for tuning pegs.
The orchestra originated in the “Sounds of the Earth” program in 2002, and made its debut in March of 2008 in Oxford England, and has since toured and performed before international audiences around the world. In 2009 it was renamed the “Orchestra of Recycled Instruments of Sounds of the Earth.” The orchestra has gone through several transformations over the years, and although there have been rumors of its being disbanded, I believe it is still performing.
Although most people may not have heard of the Orchestra of Recycled Instruments, their improvisation, artistic expression, and ingenuity are a tribute to the human experience, and one we should all applaud. There is a documentary you can find online on Youtube - take the time to watch and listen. (1)
(other videos are readily found with a search online)