Gregory Kozak's stainless steel artillery shells make a bang — though not the kind you might expect.
Instead of filling canisters with explosives to blow stuff up, he chops them into different lengths and creates a battery of chimes that wouldn’t sound out of place in a church.
Another of Kozak’s inventions is a tree of cymbals made from scrap metal. He calls it “junk-on-a-stick.”
These are just two of the found objects-cum-instruments Scrap Arts Music — a five-person ensemble that makes its Taipei debut on Thursday night — uses to make percussive tunes.
“All the Indian, Asian and African music that I love, the people who play them build instruments out of the crap and debris around them,” Kozak said in an interview with Mirror, a Montreal weekly.
“They can’t afford to send away to Taiwan for their bongos or to Philadelphia for their metal shells. So they get resourceful and creative and these amazing craftsmen come up with instruments that I love, things you can pick up and go, ‘Wow, a human being made this,’” he said.
When Kozak was a child he would annoy his parents by banging on pots and pans. Today he channels this energy into inventing things like the “annoyaphone,” a wind instrument made from a dishwasher hose, bagpipe reeds and balloons.
The men and women of Scrap Arts Music also bang on the “B-52 drum,” a stack of 1950s vintage oil cans; they strum the “mojo,” a stringed instrument built using a sailboard mast, steel bowls and piano and bass strings; and they hammer on the “plankophone,” a kind of marimba constructed from two-by-fours and wooden planks from condemned buildings that can be played by up to six people at a time.
What: Scrap Arts Music
Where: National Theater, Taipei City
When: Thursday through Aug. 9 at 7:30pm and Aug. 10 at 2:30pm
Tickets: NT$500 to NT$3,000, available through NTCH ticketing
With a program of songs with names like Bowls and Plates and Some Assembly Required, it isn’t difficult to imagine what inspires them.
But there is more to Scrap Arts Music than collecting and beating on recycled wood and aluminum. Every musical beat in its frenetic performances is aligned with a kick, jab or jump.
Underlying the music and showmanship is an environmental consciousness rarely seen in other music acts touring the world. Kozak spends hours scouring junkyards for scraps and welds his own instruments — many of which look like they belong in an art gallery.
Having trained with A-list percussionists including Pandit Pran Nath and Abraham Adzenyah, Kozak builds on the work of avant-garde composers such as Harry Partch and Wendy Mae Chambers.
Kozak founded Scrap Arts Music with Justine Murdy, an architect who helps him design the instruments, lighting and costumes, and does much of the behind-the-scenes work necessary for a globe-trotting performance troupe.
For their Taipei shows, Murdy and Kozak have gathered a lineup of musicians that runs the gamut of world music. Richard Burrows and Greg Samek are percussionists who perform regularly with North American symphony orchestras. Classically trained musician Christa Mercey studied West African and Japanese taiko drumming, and Simon Thomsen provides a Latin flair with his Brazilian grooves.