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Vienna’s Vegetable Orchestra is more than just a memorable gimmick

Great Big Story: The Vegetable Orchestra (Screenshot: YouTube)

“It’s not impossible to make music with vegetables,” declares Austrian experimental musician Susanna Gartmayer. This statement will come as no surprise to many veteran rockers, particularly those who belong to jam bands, but Gartmayer is referring not to acid casualties but to the kinds of vegetables procured from farmers’ markets. She is a member of Vienna’s famed Vegetable Orchestra, an ensemble whose instruments are fashioned entirely from vegetables, including carrots, celery, peppers, squash, and zucchini. It sounds faintly ridiculous, perhaps even the premise of an absurd comedy sketch, but Gartmayer insists that the Vegetable Orchestra is no joke. The group’s unique methods are explored in an episode of the web documentary series Great Big Story titled “Playing With Food.” The group has been at this for 17 years, and they have their methods and techniques down pat. The secret to a good Vegetable Orchestra show? Fresh vegetables, plenty of prep time, and a lengthy sound check.

For members of the Vegetable Orchestra, the onstage performance is only one part of the total experience. The concert really begins with a trip to an open air market, where the musicians pick out the vegetables they’re going to use for that night’s show. It takes a special kind of pumpkin, for instance, to make a decent bass drum. After that, it’s time for the fashioning of the instruments. Gartmayer makes a distinction between vegetables that can be played as is, those that require only a few simple cuts, and “more complex” instruments that require some time and effort. This part of the process involves power tools and generates plenty of leftovers, which are then fashioned into soup for the audience.


Viewers who are intrigued by this mini-documentary and want to see more of the Vegetable Orchestra in action are advised to check out this performance video posted to the group’s YouTube account.

[via Laughing Squid]

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