Recycling rhapsody

Patricia Alessi (below) has turned flimsy violins into bug hotels, guitars into painters’ canvas, and now massive stocks of old sheet music into pinwheels.

CHEAP unusable musical instruments are being thrown out by the truckload, but a touring project coming to Maylands is striving to reuse or recycle every plinky instrument and accessory to keep them out of landfill.

Curate is a not-for-profit arts and music outfit, and founder Patricia Alessi started the “Recycle Instrument Project” in 2019.

Ms Alessi says places like Aldi are selling cheapo instruments en masse, and sometimes a violin can go for as little as $39.95.

It’s a bargain, “except it doesn’t work!” Ms Alessi says, and they’re better described as “instrument-shaped objects”.  

“It doesn’t even make it through the first lesson because it’s so terrible. 

“It actually costs more to try to fix  it than if you had just gone to buy a decent second hand violin or guitar. 

“So it ends up costing money, because it can’t be used and it’s not worth fixing.” 

It can also turn kids off learning music: “It’s not a pleasant experience for anyone.” 

A lot of cheapies are made out of such flimsy materials they can’t be recycled, so Curate’s been collecting them for other useful ends. 

“We’ve taken in over 1000 instruments already, from 2019 to 2022. That’s just Perth, and a bit of Mandurah,” Ms Alessi says. “If that’s what’s going on in Perth alone, you can imagine what’s going on on a national or global scale.” 

The best option for the flimsiest pieces is “turn it into something else”. 

Instrument bodies have been used as canvases for painting, glockenspiels at the end of their lifespan have become planters and windchimes, and unusably flimsy violins have been upcycled into bug hotels to attract beneficial insects. 

Now the recycling project’s focusing on tackling a huge surfeit of donated sheet music. 

The high end glossy paper is pretty pricy and many people tend to hold onto it for sentimental reasons, eventually leading to closets full of reams of aging tunes that find their way to the Recycle Instrument Project. 

Sometimes people can pass it on but there’s been a lot that has no demand for reuse. 

“Intro to Recorder Music Level One is not flying off the shelves … I have so much recorder sheet music,” Ms Alessi says, with intros to Disney music and old theme songs being a mainstay of the growing stacks. “And people don’t want to throw it away.” 

At the upcoming date in Maylands, she’s hosting an intergenerational art workshop to turn the donated stock into nostalgic low-fi papercrafts, reviving the old-timey tradition of the pinwheel. 

School science 

They were the fidget spinner of their day and once a popular mainstay in school science lessons. Ms Alessi recalls growing up they were even used competitively to see who could craft a pinwheel that would spin the fastest when held out a car window. 

“I remember taking my pinwheel on a summer vacation and tried to see if I could beat my sister. It was very competitive … best out of 10.” 

The workshops run across the day at Maylands Town Hall on Sunday May 22, and Bayswater council’s sponsoring it so the spots are free, RSVP via eventbrite (search ‘nostalgic pinwheels’). 

Djinda Boodja Arts Centre director Vicki Warn will be along to help decorate the pinwheels. 

by DAVID BELL

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