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27.5.04

Orchestra in a Vegetative State

File this one under the truly strange. In an article (Un orchestre...de légumes [An orchestra...of vegetables], May 26) from France 2, I read the following (my translation):

Cucumbers, potatoes, and eggplants also have a musical soul...

In Vienna this weekend a new kind of orchestra made known the curious sounds produced by vegetables. The musicians, that is, played several pieces on a carrot shaped like a flute, a saxophone-cucumber, and a pumpkin transformed into a contrabass. In order to improve the sound quality, the vegetables had been carved and put together only one hour before the performance, as the Austrian group explained. The size, texture, and water content of the vegetables are the most important determining factors for timbre, the musicians continued.

"I would never have imagined that you could make a sound come out of a cucumber," explained one woman in the audience. Others apparently appreciated the vegetable smells emanating along with the melodies, from vegetables that, once the concert was over, concluded their artistic careers . . . in a soup.
The group gave concerts in Hamburg, Germany, on May 21 and 22, as reported in another article (Légumes et cucurbitacées en concert à Hambourg [Legumes and cucurbitaceous vegetables in concert in Hamburg], May 24) in Libération, which also tells us that this unusual group boasts nine members. The same Reuters report is available in English as German Audience Savours Vegetable Orchestra, from May 24, with the following additional information:
The sound of 40 kg (90 pounds) of finely tuned cucumbers, leeks, potatoes, radishes, peppers, aubergines and marrows entertained a German audience at a weekend concert by the Viennese Vegetable Orchestra [an Austrian ensemble of three women and six men]. "Ordinary vegetables work better together than organic vegetables," said Matthias Meinharter, who plays a violin fashioned from leeks.
Since there are no pictures in these articles, I did some searching and located the Web site for Das erste Wiener Gemüseorchester (The First Vienna Vegetable Orchestra), which has some images of the instruments. It turns out that they have actually been around since 1998. (You can buy their two CDs and listen to some excerpts from them here.) Also, when CNN carried the Reuters report (Veggie orchestra plays with food, May 26), they included a video of the performance (unfortunately, difficult to watch). This MSNBC article also has some great pictures. According to their Web site, the group will be in London, at Royal Festival Hall, on May 31 and June 1, and at the Henley Festival in England, on July 7 and 9. No U.S. concerts on the schedule yet.

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