Viennese Orchestra Uses Instruments Made of Produce

Carrot recorders, pumpkin harps, leek violins, cucumberphones...

By Josie Glausiusz|Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Green beans gently pop, like raindrops hitting a puddle. This succulent sound is the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra playing “Frkklz,” a tender piece the 11 musicians produce by blowing into carrot tubes, strumming a pumpkin harp, and snapping celery stalks. The ensemble plays music exclusively on vegetables: leek violins, pepper trumpets, eggplant clappers, and cucumberphones. Such damp implements lend the works a watery timbre. “The more water, the softer the sound,” orchestra manager Ernst Reitermaier says. “It’s more soothing, more juicy, more smooth.”

Maintaining moisture is key to making music with veggies. Onstage in the hot spotlight, the instruments often dry out and change their tune. So the musicians—who buy the vegetables fresh from the market before each concert and serve soup made from leftovers to the audience—dunk their carrot flutes into water between pieces.

The orchestra, founded in 1998, is gearing up for a U.S. tour this summer. If you can’t wait, its luscious 2003 CD, Automate, is available from Transacoustic Research. It’s a rhythmic, techno-inspired offering in which the beat of a pumpkin drum and the whistle of hollowed-out carrot flutes alternate with squeals of cabbages being rubbed together. My mother, raised on Mozart, compared one piece to “bathwater running down the plughole” and another to “someone gasping for their last breath of air.” As for me, I leapt up and danced to the sound of a synchronized salad.

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