Ballagpipe. Grumpet. Saxcycle. Glube. They may sound like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, but in reality they are four of the instruments created by Vancouver musician Paul Snider for the upcoming production of The Music of Junk!

“I’ve always been interested in the sounds that non-musical items make,” says Snider. “Groups like Stomp and Blue Man are all based on percussion, and I started to wonder what it would be like to create a complete band from recycled items. I wanted to create a harmonious set of instruments instead of just percussion.”

Originally seen on stage at the 2014 Vancouver Fringe Festival, The Music of Junk! has evolved from a piece of musical theatre into the current version that highlights both the instruments and the stories that the items he uses to create his instruments can tell.

“After putting on the show at the Fringe, people didn’t seem to care so much about the story as much as they were interested in the instruments,” he says. “Now it is more of a concert and the stories are within the songs.”

Since the Fringe, Snider has used the additional time to create the show that he had originally envisioned.

“My vision was much bigger at the time, but with the Fringe you have to keep it to a certain size,” he says. “There were these bigger instruments that I couldn’t use in that show and now I’ve been able to build a timpani from the front end of a 1999 Honda Accord, and this ten foot piping structure made out draining tubing.”

In addition to creating The Music of Junk!, Paul Snider also conducts and performs a number of his musical creations in the show. Photo by André Lanz.
In addition to creating The Music of Junk!, Paul Snider also conducts and performs a number of his musical creations in the show. Photo by André Lanz.

Along with the larger instruments, Snider now features twenty instruments in the show, from a collection of over thirty. And while it may sound like the inspiration for each instrument comes solely from the junk he uses to create them, the reality is quite a bit different.

“I’m not trying to build a certain instrument; it is about building an instrument for a specific sound,” he says. “I try to figure out whether an item has resonating capabilities and go from there. While there will be some similarities to orchestral instruments that is not the intent.”

In keeping with his recycle and reuse message that remains at the core of The Music of Junk!, Snider also looks for items that have a specific story to tell, like the slide guitar created from a child’s sled given to him by a friend.

“There was so much history in the sled,” he says. “Everything in the landfill has a history, and I decided to build stories and songs around the life that these instruments had.”

The Music of Junk! plays The Waterfront Theatre (1412 Cartwright Street Granville Island) November 18-22. Visit http://themusicofjunk.com for tickets and information.