A group of Illinois-based Makers hailing from Makerspace Urbana have unveiled a way to take outdated technology and turn them into pieces of musical instruments. The Electric Waste Orchestra project strives to “manipulate the voltage flowing through circuit boards and use those signals to make music” out of components that would’ve otherwise ended up at the dump.
As seen in the video below, the Makers recently transformed an old keyboard number pad, six hard-drives, an Arduino board and some software into a fully-functioning guitar jamming along with a modular synthesizer.
First spotted at Moogfest by Cool Hunting, Maker Colten Jackson shared the unconventional ways in which the group was using e-waste to create some sweet music. “CD drives, power supplies, modems and sound cards… Just like any place that does computer repair (many school and business IT departments, for instance), the old electronics tend to stack up,” Jackson explained to Cool Hunting.
“You can’t throw them in with the paper and plastic recycling, you know?” It’s even true of regular users; it’s easy to hoard outdated electronics, thinking something might come in handy or be valuable down the road. There’s also the issue of how difficult it still is to recycle or throw away electronics; e-waste, for example, is often exported to developing countries under the guise of ‘second-hand,’ only to become a pollution problem for somebody else.”
“At 20 years old, some of these things are useless. The hard disk drives I used were all 1 GigaByte disks—[they] can fit on your pinky nail nowadays; no one is going to use these hard drives again, but I thought they were still beautiful objects. Mirrored, high-precision disks (very expensive in their day) are now junk? There must be a way to make new objects with these artifacts!”
While there are places where these electronic forms of waste can be properly disposed of and recycled, they may not always be accessible. Electric Waste Orchestra hopes to inspire Makers from other fields as well. Time will tell if soon we’ll see a growing number of Makers extracting gizmos and gadgets from the trash and giving them new life on stage. As Cool Hunting noted, Jackson understands the importance of having access to the tools and the expertise in order to bring his ideas to reality; it adds even more value and importance to community spaces such as Makerspace Urbana.