Artist Turns Trashed Objects Into Playable Instruments

Transforming Trash Into Musical Treasures Ken Butler is doing some remarkable things with objects he’s found around New York City, turning what once was trash into unique, playable musical...

Transforming Trash Into Musical Treasures

Ken Butler is doing some remarkable things with objects he’s found around New York City, turning what once was trash into unique, playable musical instruments. An artist and musician, Ken began collecting objects that he felt had interesting shapes and forming them into instruments, and has crafted over 400 of these trash creations. Like a kid picking up a tennis racket and pretending it is a guitar, Ken captures that creativity and playfulness with playable instruments he has crafted.

Ken often combines elements of a tradition instrument, such as guitar strings and a fret board, to create something completely new yet oddly familiar. Butler utilizes the shapes, textures, materials, and intrinsic qualities of things items he has found on the streets. Many of these objects are held in a way that seemingly mimics the instrument they are based off of, but others are completely unique in the way they reproduce sound. Ken also utilizes amplification on several of his creations to really capture their unique noises. Some of his inventions include a surfboard bass, a shotgun violin, and a mannequin cello.

Making new and interesting tones from the material that was formerly trash is Ken’s way of, as he says, “transforming your perception about our relationship to objects that we take for granted.” The designs of traditional musical instruments, innately full striking and iconic shapes, juxtaposed with the wild objects that Ken finds and utilizes, “allows some crazy things to happen that you probably couldn’t imagine.” His instruments have completely distinctive qualities, things that would not have been appreciated while these pieces of “trash” were ordinary objects.

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