A while back, I posted an entertaining image of a “Barbie foosball” table. Well, here’s another creative reuse of old toys, including Barbies:
Making music from children’s old toys: “Children’s keyboards, educational spelling toys and even an evil-looking Barbie all help to create the unique sound of Birmingham’s Modified Toy Orchestra.
The group’s five musicians “liberate” the toys by taking apart their circuits and reworking them – with nearly 50 specially adapted instruments being used altogether… (via BBC News.)
Creating (hacking, modding) musical instruments from unexpected, non-musical objects is of course nothing new, but this particular instance does seem to me to be connected tp some interesting trends in contemporary music, driven by an odd and complicated mix of both engaging with and rejecting technology. Engaging with, in this case, by using the electronic circuits, but rejecting as well in that there is a turning away from simply using your MacBook Pro and some audio tools to create your sound – and from the clean sound that modern musical technology produces. There’s a grunge element here – in the sense of trash-heaps more than Nirvana.
There’s also a “found sound” dimension here that is interesting, and related I think to other “found sound” reuse/recycle projects, such as Indignant Senility’s reworking of Wagner records. But there is also a profound degree of nostalgia behind the Modified Toy Orchestra. It’s related, for me, to all the other recent instances of a nostalgia for the pop past of the 1970s and 1980s (cf, the upcoming recycling of “Hawaii Five-0”) – which seem fueled both by a kind of Boomer midlife crisis – an at times desperate grabbing onto the pleasures of childhood – and also by a reaction among younger generations to the real world hardships and pop culture sterility of the present (about which I may have more to say in the future).