Sunday, 2 December 2007
I have spent the weekend thinking about the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra after watching several of their concerts on Youtube. Once the orchestra members have gone to the market, bought, and prepared their fresh vegetables, the sound they produce is similar to music produced in societies that make their own instruments. For what struck me was not that they are playing Mozart on mange tout, but rather they are recapitulating the original first process of making music using tools, that is independent of the human voice.
In my childhood, we primary school children would be taken for walks in Calderstones Park in a crocodile and would stop to pick blades of grass and put to them to our mouths and make them sing. A violin must have its origins in a gourd. Music surely begins as vegetable matter.
The urge in human nature to creativity is its most inspiring and touching quality. The mind's capacity for curiosity and invention, its elastic reshaping of reality, is our god-like property. I contrasted the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra with the demands for the prosecution, and even execution of a Liverpool schoolteacher in Sudan for allowing her pupils to name a teddy bear Mohammad. This is a mind converging on a single thought, playing it repetitively, like a single note or an angry vein throbbing in the forehead.
When I woke up this morning a kind reader had sent me a link to an Australian ad for a brand of beer called Victoria Bitter, in which a conductor and orchestra had been assembled to play a brief piece of music on empty bottles. This exhilarating clip here,
and a longer one below showing the making of the commercial, with interviews with the ad agency who dreamed it up, the conductor and the members of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra who played it, reminds us that play is not confined to what you do on with an instrument. Which should all do more of it.