'Stinkin' Garbage' - The Piece of Music Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

'Stinkin' Garbage' - The Piece of Music

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Stinkin' Garbage is a revolutionary piece of music for percussion ensemble. It was written by Ed Argenziano in the 1990s. The piece can feature anything from two to thirty-two players (thirty-two is the official number given on the score, although theoretically there is no limit to the number of players, as long as they can co-ordinate themselves). The piece is completely played on rubbish bins (or garbage cans, hence the title) - using different parts of the can and different 'thwacking' techniques to achieve a lot of odd effects!

The piece begins with a few bars of solo rhythm from a large rubbish bin, played by the lead player. The score specifies that a 'large rubber can' - referred to as the 'bass can' - should be used for this purpose. However, any bin will do if a large rubber one cannot be found. The rest of the bins join in shortly after the bass can, playing a rhythm that complements the rhythm on the bass can. After the bass can's rhythm stops, the lead player can join in the rest of the piece on a normal can. The score says that 'normal cans' should be '30 gallon metal garbage can with lid on, handle removed'. If you can't find exactly that, almost any bin will do, and if you don't have lids, you can turn the bin upside down and play on the bottom (make sure you have emptied all rubbish before you do this!). At the end of the piece, the score says that you should open your bin and throw sticks inside. This amusing way to end the piece can be replaced with various other amusing endings (such as having the lead player run along with a can and all the other players attempting to throw their sticks inside).

The bins and their players are usually set up in a long line, with an extra can next to the players at each end of the line. In general, all the cans have the same rhythm at the same time, except for a few sections that contain two parts. In these sections there are 'top' and 'bottom' parts - one player will play top, their neighbour will play bottom, the next person will play top and so on. Players use wooden drum sticks to play the piece - thicker sticks sound better than smaller and thinner ones. 'Sticking' (which hand is used to play which note) is alternate unless otherwise notated.

Stinkin' Garbage contains some very original notation. Percussionists often have to read a normal five-lined stave without a proper clef - just in 'drum clef', with each line or space being a different percussion instrument. Stinkin' Garbage has its own garbage clef, using the stave to notate different parts of the bin. A player's bin, the bins to the left and right, the rim and the side of the bin are all shown by different marks on the stave, with a small key appearing as part of the score. The music is in 4/4 time the whole way through, except for a small section in 12/8.

Stinkin' Garbage is a hugely original piece - obviously the whole idea of a piece featuring only rubbish bins is unique. As well as that, Stinkin' Garbage has some very clever sections in the piece where the players must hit the rubbish bin next to them, causing their arms to cross over. When performed well, with rhythms intact, this is a very, very impressive sight, making it extremely hard to play. Stinkin' Garbage is usually played by percussion ensembles. It is an inventive piece of music that audiences love.

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