Ei Wada performs as the Braun Tube Jazz Band. REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino

Japanese musician Ei Wada hears tunes in your trashed machines.

According to the latest numbers from the United Nations, the world generated 14.1 million tons of small appliance waste in 2014, made of the discarded vacuum cleaners, microwaves, toasters, and video cameras you once treasured, then tossed. There were 7 million tons of scrapped screens, 3.3 million tons of small IT equipment (PCs, keyboards, scanners, etc.), and 1.1 million tons of lamps.

For Japanese experimental musician Ei Wada, those mountains of garbage are music. Since 2009, he’s been recycling e-waste to make strange but compelling electronic instruments.  

Wada, an experimental musician and artist, studied programming before he turned to traditional Indonesian Gamelan music. As Motherboard’s Emiko Jozuka reports, Wada was fooling around with some old cassette tapes one day when he noticed they made noises similar to the “alien” ones emitted by Gamelan ensembles.

Now Wada—joined by an occasional merry band of recycling musicians—tries to recreate those folk sounds using the machines people don’t want anymore. His music groups, the Open Reel Ensemble and the Braun Tube Jazz Band, make thumping, electronic dance numbers using reel-to-reel tape recorders, cathode ray tube (CRT)-dependent TV sets, PCs, discarded ventilator fans, and turntables.

The piece below, which premiered at the 2014 Japan Media Arts Festival, is a solo Wada number called “Toki Ori Ori Nasu—Falling Records,” which Gizmodo describes thusly:

An arrangement of four tall glass columns crowned by tape reels, each slowly leaking black tape that piles up at the bottom of each case, creating almost geological patterns. When the reels are empty, they reverse—and the music they each contain starts to play.

“All these tech objects are a symbol of Japan’s economic growth, but they also get thrown away in great numbers,” Wada told Motherboard. “It’s good to not just say bye to things that are thrown away, but to instill old things with new meaning, and celebrate their unique points.”

For the e-waste, at least, it’s a more scintillating second life than a trash heap.  

H/t Grist

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Design

    The Many Lives of Notre-Dame

    Far from being a single author’s definitive text, the beloved cathedral’s history is a palimpsest.

  2. a photo of a Metro PCS store in Washington, D.C.
    Equity

    What D.C.’s Go-Go Showdown Reveals About Gentrification

    A neighborhood debate over music swiftly became something bigger, and louder: a cry for self-determination from a community that is struggling to be heard.

  3. Tech workers sit around a table on their laptops in San Francisco, California
    Life

    America’s Tech Hubs Still Dominate, But Some Smaller Cities Are Rising

    Despite established urban tech hubs, some smaller cities are attracting high-tech jobs with lower living costs, unique talent pools, and geographic diversity.

  4. Equity

    The Hidden Horror of Hudson Yards Is How It Was Financed

    Manhattan’s new luxury mega-project was partially bankrolled by an investor visa program called EB-5, which was meant to help poverty-stricken areas.

  5. The facade of a casino in Atlantic City.
    Photos

    Photographing the Trumpian Urbanism of Atlantic City

    Brian Rose’s new book uses the deeply troubled New Jersey city as a window into how a developer-turned-president operates.