Making music out of junk

Junkman – Manchester, VT
Donald Knaack is a conservatory-trained percussionist, composer, and is also known as “The Junkman.” Living and performing in Manchester, Vermont, he embarked on his journey by chance while seeking a particular pitch. He soon discovered that discarded materials, such as metal pipes and automobile parts, could produce tones not available in traditional instruments. In his hands, ski-poles become wind chimes, silverware becomes bells, and keys become cascading ripples of sound. When not in his studio producing his next Grammy winning album, you can find Donald scouring junkyards and teaching young students about environmental issues.

My name is Donald Knaack, and people call me “the Junkman.”  They call me that because I collect junk and I make music out of junk. Many years ago, we were doing tusca and it called for a “low chime” which we did not have, nor could we afford to rent one.  I had remembered that a low chime had sounded very much like a driveshaft that I had heard in my father’s garage many times.  So, we took a driveshaft literally made a chime of it.  We took it to the conductor he loved it, and from that moment I knew there was something special going on with junk.”

junkman selecting waste and trash to make music

2 Responses to “Making music out of junk”

  1. shantel January 25, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    this is one of my favorite interviews because I love junkman’s story of how and why use started using junk to create music

  2. Emily January 27, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

    Leave it to Vermonters to make useful out of the “throw away” pile! A fellow Vermonter friend of mine, goes to the junk yard and makes wind chimes. Lovely. It makes me inspired to create something out of nothing!

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