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Making Music With Vegetables

Groups of professional musicians from Vienna and London, calling themselves vegetable orchestras, transform veggies into musical instruments

Source: London Vegetable Orchestra, Vegetable Orchestra and Linsey Pollok

Pumpkin and leaks used as a drum and drumming sticks by a musician of The Vegetable Orchestra, Queen Elizabeth hall, London, 19 February 2003
Pumpkin and leaks used as a drum and drumming sticks by a musician of The Vegetable Orchestra, Queen Elizabeth hall, London, 19 February 2003

In recent years, music performed with vegetables has been increasingly popularized by the so-called vegetable orchestras. These groups of professional musicians craft their own instruments from agricultural produce and "play" pumpkins and carrots at actual concerts around the globe. The two best-known vegetable orchestras are The Vegetable Orchestra of Vienna, the older of the two, and The London Vegetable Orchestra. 

The Vegetable Orchestra of Vienna has been performing professionally in front of large audiences worldwide for almost two decades. They blow carved-out turnips, drum on pumpkins using leaks as drum sticks, clap with eggplant cymbals and rustle with parsley and greens. They use both fresh and dried veggies for their instruments. The sound, amplified through special microphones, varies greatly. It can be transparent and crackling, shrill and deep, dark and hypnotic or funky and groovy. The orchestras' style fluctuates from contemporary music through jazz and experimental electronic. 

While touring the world, the Vegetable Orchestra of Vienna has to craft their instruments from anew right before each performance. This means that while they do not need to transport heavy and expensive musical instruments to concert venues, they do have to tour local markets right before performances in search of the perfect produce.

Building a musical instrument from vegetables can take anywhere from zero minutes to more than half an hour, depending on the complexity of the instrument. It is highly important that the produce is fresh and of good quality. The orchestra uses drilling machines, sharp knives and other kitchen tools to construct the apparatuses. At the end of each concert, the audience is offered fresh vegetable soup prepared with leftovers from the instruments.

The Vegetables Orchestra of Vienna making
The Vegetables Orchestra of Vienna making "fresh" instruments out of vegetables
The Vegetables Orchestra/Facebook

The London Vegetable Orchestra was formed seven years ago. It all started when Tim Cranmore, a British recorder maker, bet his friends that he can make a good recorder even out of a carrot. Eventually, he gathered around himself a team of young talented musicians who actually work for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Symphony. They play carrot recorders, courgette trumpets, butternut squash trombones, pumpkin percussion and eggplant castanets. Their repertoire revolves around classical and contemporary music.

Solo vegetable musicians also toil in the field. Japanese YouTuber Junji Koyama, for instance, makes instruments like macaroni harmonicas and avocado whistles and eats them after every performance. Australian Linsey Pollack, on the other hand, has been developing specialized and unusual musical instruments from carrots and other objects since the 1980s.

Bon Appétit! 

Members of The London Vegetable Orchestra
Members of The London Vegetable Orchestra
The London Vegetable Orchestra

Mila is one of Eatglobe's staff writers and the heart of our news bureau.

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