The Vegetable Orchestra
ONIONOISE

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questions

when was the orchestra founded?

the orchestra was founded in february 1998.

who is the boss, the leader, speaker etc. of the orchestra?

there is none. we are a group of self-organized women and men working collaboratively on this project.

who had the idea?

we don't remember. it is not the idea that matters it is the realization. the idea was born and carried out by a group of people, who came from different musical backgrounds (improvisation, electronics, pop, rock, punk, contemporary,......) and have worked together before in various projects.

are you all vegetarians or vegans?

no we are not. don't ask again. we've heard this question 3 million times.

are you serious about your music?

yes we are. this is not a just-for-fun project. 

isn't it an ethical problem to play on vegetable instruments while elsewhere people die of starvation?

we have heard this question very often. if you are really concerned about the distribution of wealth then do something about it! read books about the real cause of hunger. change your own life and try to change politics. buy and support the right things. it is not people using vegetables differently than usual that make the world a bad place. it's all of us wanting too much. our own car, a new cellphone, a bigger house with air condition, more money...

actually our instruments cause less problems than traditional instruments, laptops, etc...
their production needs much less energy and ressources and they are bio-degradable.  

What do you do with the vegetables when you're done with them?

part of the vegetables which are left over after preparing the instruments go into the vegetable soup which is served to the audience after the concert.
part of the instruments and other remaining vegetables we give to the audience after the concert.
and another part goes into the organic waste. 

can you provide instructions how to build vegetable instruments:

sorry, but it is too complicated to give such instructions here ...  we use drilling machines, sharp knives and other kitchen tools... and of course, various vegetables.

what was the last instrument you developed, and when was it?

first: tomato; december 1997
last: a new instrument without a name, was it yesterday?
we constantly develop new instruments. each time we perform we refine our instruments or experiment with new variants. so it is more like an evolution than a new creation of instruments. sometimes we only combine two ideas and create a new instrument that way. 

what is so special in the sound of vegetable instruments

we believe that we can produce sound that cannot be (easily) produced by other instruments. you can hear the difference. it sometimes sounds like animals, sometimes just like abstract sounds.
we explored these abstract sounds in cd, which is inspired by electronic sounds featured in contemporary electronic music.

do you use only vegetables? not fruits?

there's much confusion about these definitions. the concept is based on the  german term "gemuese" which a little bit different from the english word vegetable. there are for example vegetables that are fruits also: tomato, eggplant etc.
in the end we found out that the connotation of the specific term “vegetable” is often determined by habits of cooking and eating. this varies from culture to culture.

how long does it take to prepare a vegetable instrument?

tomato: 0'
cucumberophone: 13'
carrot recorder:30'
it depends which instrument. some are ready made. you take a vegetable and make sound with it. some are more complicated like a hollowed celery for example. and some can be longer work like the carrot recorder, one of our most elaborate instruments.

how much of the sound depends on the quality of the instrument?

a lot i think. it is hard to play on bad or non-fresh vegetables as
they prove to be unreliable. you can't play on a rotten cucumber or on a small pumpkin... if an instrument breaks just before or during a solo for example, it is often because of a low quality vegetable.

where do you buy your vegetables?

in vienna on the “naschmarkt”. if we play in other countries,we have to go to the local market and then its sometimes difficult to find the vegetables we need
we love to go to open markets. supermarkets’ plastic packed veggies are no good instruments! 

how many musicians do you have in your orchestra?

we are currently 11 musicians, 1 video person & 1 sound technician.

what kind of soup does your cook prepare at the end of your concert?

it´s always different, but always delicious.

do you colaborate with other musicians?

yes, we did for example work together with the composer and trumpet player
franz hautzinger and the klangforum vienna. 

is there another vegetable orchestra in holland, u.k., usa, mars, alpha centauri etc.?

as far as we know there is only one vegetable orchestra in this small world.
there's a guy doing music with vegetables in australia (his name is linsey pollack) but i guess none in holland, u.k., usa, mars, alpha centauri etc..

but we are working on world domination. you would want to never have asked this question :-) as soon as we have infiltrated every philharmonic orchestra in the world.

but if you are really looking for a vegetable orchestra in holland, u.k., usa, mars, alpha centauri etc. go to the next vegetable market and listen very closely.
you will hear the delicate sounds all vegetables make. there are millions of vegetable orchestras in the world. and there are also bread orchestras, food can orchestras, car orchestras, cell phone orchestras, shoe orchestras etc. 

do you also hold workshops?

although this is not our main concern, we sometimes do workshops (for all ages).

why vegetables? any object can produce sounds; is the fact that you chose vegetables in any way related to the fact that they can be eaten?

yes, what's nice about vegetables is that you can also smell and taste them. and they have so many different colours and shapes and you can get them everywhere... though there are local differences, of course...

do you wish to draw attention to the infinity of sounds that surrounds us in daily life in general, or do you focus on food for some particular reason?

the sounds in daily life are more important for us than the fact that we produce this on food. but of course we have begun to think a lot about food in general and especially vegetables...
we are planning to play a benefit concert for the vegetable workers in southern spain, where most of the vegetables we use are produced and where people have to work under very, very inhuman conditions... so, this is also a political topic, of course.
but our first aim surely was to explore the sound world that surrounds us. 

how would you describe your style of music?

vegetable style. influenced by experimental contemporary, electronic music, musique concrete, noise, improvised music, popmusic

is there any particular procedure to prepare the vegetables to be musical instruments?

that depends on the instrument. the leek violin is a ready made; the cucumberphone needs a lot of preparation.

what are the difficulties in creating these instruments?

one problem is that the quality of vegetable can be very different. for example, you need a certain size & quality of carrot  to build a carrot recorder; in some countries it can be very difficult to find carrots that we can use... another problem is that the instruments change their sound after some time on stage (when they dry out because of the heat of the stage lights)

is the sound of the instrument linked to the quality of vegetable used each time?

most vegetables have to be fresh (like the leek violin); but this is different for each instrument. for example a carrot for a drum stick should be as large as possible, a carrot for a flute needs medium size and a fine structure... the temperature on stage will also change the sound of the instruments.

do you care to safeguard the original sound of your instruments or do you rather focus your attention on the transformation of the sound created?

depends on the instruments. in some cases the changes of the sound while using the vegetable is characteristic for the piece. on the other hand, a melody instrument like the carrot recorder or the radirimba should be constant, at least as long as the song lasts.

what kind of connection exists between composition and improvisation in your music?

most of the pieces we play are compositions; although there is often room for improvisation, too. and most of the compositions we have developed together in the group. (which can take quite a long time).
we developed different forms of notation, most of them are written. the appearance varies from classical rhythm patterns to graphical notations or comix, some of them are rather abstract. as there was no knowledge in the beginning of how to write the music down on paper, we experimented and found our own way.

did you make up a particular instrument in order to write your music?

if a specific idea for a sound exists, we try to find a vegetable this particular sound can be created with.

your musical results sound, in some way, like the techno or electro music of kraftwerk, but do they also to concrete music? how do you aPproach these genres of music?

the idea behind the cd "automate" was to play music that sounds like electronic music on vegetable instruments. i don't think that there is a lot of similarity to concrete music, but some of our older pieces are certainly influenced by various musical concepts of fluxus, musique concrete, cage, ....

about the musical aspect you can say that the vegetables's "hidden" inside sound life is brought to the surface and made visual during the performance. for example, on our last two cds, we pre-recorded the sounds, then composed pieces via computer, and afterwards rearranged them for live performance. the whole procedure of sampling has a lot to do with the process of decomposition and reconstruction. when u listen to the sound you can no longer tell if it's a carrot or an eggplant clap.

are there any role models or artists who influenced you?

no role models but a lot of artists who influenced our work.  to mention a few: steve reich, john cage, kraftwerk, radian, christian fennesz, franz hautzinger, aphex twin, merzbow, john zorn, frank zappa, klangforum wien, ...

do you consider yourself to be in the domain of electronic music or classical music? who is closer to you, aphex twin or john cage?

we are in neither domain. cage and aphex twin are of similar importance to us.

what is the superidea of your art? is it close to pierre boulez's theory that every thing in this world is a sound in another?

you can make music out of nearly everything, each thing contains a very specific acoustic quality and represents an intricate universe of sound. each thing could be a tool to open up that point of view.

are the members of the orchestra clasically trained musicians? how do you collaborate?

all of our members have a strong musical background, but not a classical one. as our music repertoire, the social structure of our orchestra consists of heterogenous positions. we are 13 persons active in various artistic fields, which opens up a wide range of positions. half of the members are based in visual arts as painters, designers or installation artists, the others are more concerned with musical matters. this creates a productive setting where questions can be solved from very individual points of view. we need to discuss a lot in order to bring all those points together. within the last years we had to develop a way of talking respectfully with each other. the vegetable orchestra would be a totally different project if run by “pure” musicians and one conductor only. the orchestra is like a swarm of diverse artists, and together they represent much more than the mere sum of the individual parts.

Is the very strong percussive element in your music due to the particular nature of the instruments, or is it because of your music taste?

that strong percussive element on our new CD is because rhythm is very important in most electronic music styles. on our next CD sound will proably be more important than rhythm.

how much do you take for a concert?

this cannot be said generally. it depends on the size of the event.
on the character of the event. the place & country etc.

in what sort of places do you like to perform?

we like to play in places with an open-minded audience, a concentrated atmophere and good p.a. that can be a concert hall, a theatre room, a gallery, .... there are many possibilities and our music works in many different places....
what we don’t like playing in a comedy context or during commercial events. 

how often do you give concerts?

about 20-30 concerts per year.


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