A Brief History of Scrap Arts Music, the company
In the spring of ’98, when their financial prospects were bleak (yet inspiration ran deep), drummer/composer Gregory Kozak mused to his architectural historian partner Justine Murdy that what he really wanted to do was build and create an “orchestra of invented instruments”.
While she considered their broad talents… and the whimsical possibilities… Justine replied with a twinkle in her eye:
Why not?… We can do this!
“Scrap Arts Music” was born.
Drawing from eclectic backgrounds, the duo began collecting materials and ideas, and conceiving of musical instruments and compositions that are intricate, playful, and powerful — creations destined to delight both the eyes and the ears. Within months, the best musicians in Canada were being enlisted.
Gregory and Justine’s unique approach combines the unlikely worlds of rhythm-based music and vernacular architecture. Gregory studied Afro-Cuban jazz in NYC, as well as piano composition, world percussion, Indian raga, modern dance, and metal fabrication. Justine studied architectural design, and worked professionally in heritage and material culture studies.
Inspired by world and folk instruments that are hand-made from “local” materials, Vancouver-based Gregory and Justine ultimately decided to create their 21st century instruments from the most abundant and readily available resource around them: construction and industrial salvage.
Vancouver’s seemingly unending building boom generates mountains of high-quality construction cast-aways that, along with the industrial debris of coastal activities, end up in local landfills. Scrap Arts Music disrupts this “waste” by sourcing, recombining, bending and welding choice scrap into whimsical, eye-catching and great-sounding, mobile sculptural instruments. Materials have ranged from spun aluminum shapes, railings, submarine parts, artillery shells, old accordions, and marine exhaust hose.
Gregory and Justine’s “orchestra of invented instruments” thereby reflects their unique time and place, showing that industrial ‘throw-aways’ can be transformed into useful, valuable, beautiful and sonic creations.
Between 1998 and 2005, Scrap Arts Music created more than 145 tune-able sculptural instruments for performances around the world. Many of the larger instruments are mobile and articulated to allow for their “action-choreography” style of performance that expresses the powerful energy of percussion music.
In 2015, new instrument ideas for a production called “Children of Metropolis” were conceived, with a debut scheduled for March 2018.
Scrap Arts Music compositions are created for quintet and demand impressive technical precision, athletic dexterity and adventurous spirit. West Coast musicians Alex Campbell, Masako Hockey, Chris Blaber, Greg Samek and Jill Cooper join composer Gregory Kozak in the current line-up.
Since 2001, Scrap Arts Music has performed for literally hundreds of thousands of people from:
- Canada in the north, through to the USA, Mexico, and Guatemala in the south;
- the UK including England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland;
- Europe including Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium;
- and Asia, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and Macau.
Scrap Arts Music performs full length concerts, educational matinees, masterclasses, and at special events — such as the spectacular Closing Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Not bad for a project that started with zero money and an ambitious, quirky dream!
Several of Canada’s best percussionists have toured with Scrap Arts Music, including:
- Spencer Cole, currently in Weaves (2017 Juno- & Polaris Prize short-list -nominated);
- Christa Mercey, more recently with Cirque du Soleil (Kurios);
- Scott Bishop, currently in Blue Man Group (Chicago);
- Rob Chursinoff, formerly with Tegan & Sara and Bell Game;
- Malcolm Shoolbraid, currently in Thigma (Salt Spring Island); and,
- Richard Burrows, currently in TORQ.
In every Scrap Arts Music production, the same mandate followed 20 years ago applies:
Give consideration to the visual possibility of music. Take SCRAP, transform it through the ARTS of sculpture and choreography, and then —with five extraordinary percussionists— create beautiful MUSIC suitable for global audiences.
Scrap Arts Music… part of an urban legend, since 1998.
Warning: your family members may want to pick up some drum sticks after seeing Scrap Arts Music.