The intersection of music and recycling

“If we think about it, the idea of recycling exists in the very fabric of creating music,” composer and producer Dhruv Goel tells us.

“From classical music and jazz to electronic music and hip hop, melodies and rhythms stand on the shoulders of what has come before. Old sounds are resampled, harmony and rhythms are reused and modified, and something fresh comes out of that. Music has historically evolved by taking what has come before and adding to it.”

Goel has a point – from artists like Ariana Grande and Panic! At the Disco borrowing melodies from the same classic tunes to the reinterpretation of motifs across a soundtrack, the world of music creation emphasizes the concept of recycling as one of its fundamental pillars. In fact, entire creative processes like sampling and remixing are practically defined by the act.

That said, how do musicians engage with recycling in the context of sustainability? As the need for heightened awareness and change increases on a global scale, what are simple but meaningful actions that musicians can take to help? Goel shares his thoughts with us.

Be mindful about your gear

“As a community, I think it’s important for musicians to be more conscious of our choices,” Goel says. “It really starts with the little things, like buying music gear from companies that follow environmentally friendly practices. We can also encourage donating or passing on instruments to future generations instead of discarding them.”

Once we’ve acquired it, how we use our gear matters too. “The machines we run throughout the day consume a lot of energy,” Goel notes. “So, powering them down when not needed or at the end of the day helps – it all adds up.”

Make sustainable choices around touring and concerts

While it may feel less relevant in this particular moment in history, touring and concerts are one of the most important categories where we can make an impact. “In the United States, festival-goers produce over 50,000 tons of waste each year,” Goel explains. “Musicians wield a lot of power and social influence. When their fans see them making sustainable choices or voicing concerns about the environment, it can have a huge impact and can exponentially increase public discourse around sustainability and recycling.”

Give value to materials that might be considered waste

“One person’s waste is another’s instrument,” Goel opines. He recently put this idea to action with his new sample pack on Splice, which features sounds created using trashcans, broken cars, discarded game consoles, and more.

“I was initially thinking of making a metallic percussion pack,” he recalls. “But after a conversation with my friend Kanika Patawari (who runs MusicRecycle), it occurred to me that recording sounds at a recycling yard would be an incredible sonic experience that simultaneously raises awareness about recycling. The musician community definitely has an important role to play in building a more sustainable future, and I hope we’re able to incorporate sustainability into our musical journeys!”

Do you have any tips for musicians around sustainability that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.

Explore an eclectic collection of sounds originating from metal, plastic, and other recycled sources:

February 9, 2021

Harrison Shimazu

Harrison Shimazu is a composer, content strategist, and writer who’s passionate about democratizing music creation and education. He leads the Splice blog and produces vocaloid music as Namaboku.