The Landfill Orchestra in Paraguay
Ecological Civilization, Process Theology,
and Community-Based Arts
"Landfill Harmonic is an upcoming feature-length documentary about a remarkable musical orchestra in Paraguay, where the musicians play instruments made from trash.
Cateura, Paraguay is a town essentially built on top of a landfill. Garbage collectors browse the trash for sellable goods, and children are often at risk of getting involved with drugs and gangs. When orchestra director Szaran and music teacher Favio set up a music program for the kids of Cateura, they soon have more students than they have instruments.
That changed when Szaran and Favio were brought something they had never seen before: a violin made out of garbage. Today, there’s an entire orchestra of assembled instruments, now called The Recycled Orchestra.
Our film shows how trash and recycled materials can be transformed into beautiful sounding musical instruments, but more importantly, it brings witness to the transformation of precious human beings...more
Sustainability and the Arts
Our vocation in life, says process theology, is to help bring forth beauty in the world. Peace and justice are forms of beauty, Art and music are forms of beauty, too.
Finding your vocation is like painting your life. Always we are painting our lives from the material at hand: our relationships, our historical circumstances, our hopes and dreams. We are all artists. Love and courage are God's favorite colors.
This means that visual arts we see with our eyes, and musical compositions we hear with our ears, are derivative from the deeper art, that of living of life. They are ways of collaborating with the creativity of the universe and with the life-force, the Soul of the universe, with God. You'll see both kinds of art in the video: the art of living and the sounds of music.
Make no mistake. Art does not have to be beautiful in order to be art. It can be provocative and earthshaking. It can illuminate truths from which we would rather hide. Still, much art is beautiful and in its beauty it provides an essential dimension of sustainable community.
Sustainable communities are communities that are creative, compassionate, equitable, participatory, ecologically wise, and spiritually satisfying....with no one left behind. They are sustainable in two senses. They can be sustained into the future given the limits of the earth to absorb waste and supply resources. And they provides sustenance -- material and spiritual -- for human beings as they dwell in community with one another and the earth.
Consider orchestra director Szaran and music teacher Favio in the video. When they were brought a violin made of trash, they saw the two meanings of sustainability combined: sustainability with the earth and sustenance for the soul.
A word of truth. There is something profoundly inequitable when some live on garbage heaps while others live in mansions. The gap between rich and poor is unsustaining for the poor and for the rich, too. There's an need for ethical beauty, too. A need for socialized democracy.
Still, there is something immensely sustaining when people make musical instruments out of trash and recycles materials. The artisans and the children are following life's vocation. They are creating beauty and being empowered in the process.
In process theology we speak of empowerment as creative transformation. It is one way that the adventure of the universe as One -- the very Soul of the universe -- is present in the world. Some people think that the Soul of the universe is a noun, but we think the Soul is an activity, a verb, too. We see the Soul in process wherever people take things that have been discarded and make some beautiful from them.
Yes, we see the Soul in recycling. Recycling is a kind of prayer. It is a way of making music with the universe and thus a way of participating in a deeper liturgy, eminently localizable in different cultural settings.
It is especially prayerful when it turns garbage into violins and cellos. Thank you Ada. Thank you Bebi. Keep playing. Mind if we keep listening?