Earlier this year the Internet was buzzing about a very uncommon orchestra called Los Reciclados. Its members are teenagers all living in Cateura, a town built on Asuncion’s largest landfill. Their particularity (other than the utter poverty and appalling hygiene conditions in which they live) is that they play on instruments made from garbage. Cans, scraps of wood and other things found in the dump are collected and patiently assembled to enable all the kids to have their own instruments. A documentary, "Landfill Harmonic", is being filmed to show how the orchestra came to be and how it works.
What this orchestra accomplish is at least as extraordinary as their instruments. The young musicians are kept out of the streets, they are passionate about music, a whole new horizon opens up before them, they raise awareness about the living conditions in Cateura, they encourage national and international authorities to fight poverty, they prove that with a bit of imagination and ingenuity you can bring recycling to another level… The list of their achievements seems endless.
When confronted with one extreme, my mind cannot help looking for what is on the other end of the spectrum. Regularly, we hear about an exceptional instrument going under the hammer for an astronomical sum. My dear friend Google gave me the example of “Lady Blunt”, a Stradivarius that sold for 11 million euros in 2011.
And the rattling in my brain begins: Isn’t it indecent to spend that much money on an instrument? Shouldn’t that money be put to better use? Or is 11 million euros a fair price for a piece of history like a Stradivarius? And surely Los Reciclados would virtually go unnoticed if they played on regular instruments? But if music can come out of virtually anything, does it make any sense to pay several millions for what is essentially just an old piece of wood? Feel free to share your thoughts on the subject, I won't be done thinking about this for a while...