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Street Beats program uses recyclables to create music

Street Beats director Laura Barron sits among some of the recyclables that have been turned into musical instruments. Photo: Tanner Bokor

Reported by Tanner Bokor

A community percussion group is taking peoples’ trash and turning it into musical instruments.

Street Beats is a community partnership between non-profit groups, local binners – people who collect recyclables to supplement their lifestyle – and community percussion enthusiasts. The group uses various objects, like pots or bottles, and transforms them into musical instruments.

The group meets weekly at the Roundhouse, Trout Lake and Sunset Community Centres to create organized musical patterns that is open to the public.

Laura Barron, executive director of Instruments of Change and director of Street Beats, says the inspiration came from watching a community dance program.

“I thought, wow, if you can get community members to dance at that level with good collaboration and preparation, what could we do musically?” said Barron. “Immediately, a percussion or a found object concept came to mind as something very accessible,” she said.

Local composer James Maxwell will take the rhythms and beats created by the group and turn them into a piece for a brass band.

The performance will be for the International Society for Contemporary Music’s Vancouver conference in November 2017.

Some of the Street Beats recyclables turned instruments. Photo: Tanner Bokor

Program partners with local binners to promote recycling

A key highlight of the program is the partnership with local binners through the UBC Learning Exchange and the Binners’ Project, a non-profit group dedicated to improving the lives of Vancouver’s informal recyclers.

“The program creates more dignity in the binner’s lives, and helps legitimize them as the city’s foremost recyclers. We wanted to hire them to curate and find our instruments,” said Barron.

One local binner said the program helps bring recognition to the value that they provide to both the environment and the community.

“I’m happy to know that people have the opportunity to see through our eyes and hopefully in a new light,” said binner Will Cho.

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