The real-world biophysical impacts of musical activities disrupt the romantic idea of music as somehow immaterial and ethereal. Studies on the environmental impact of recorded music formats, like Kyle Devine’s book Decomposed, show that even the shift from physical records (vinyl, cassettes and CDs) to digital files has not reduced recorded music’s material impacts, but simply relocated those impacts (from plastic products to devices, data servers and other digital infrastructure). This has enabled continued extraordinary growth in consumption of recorded music, outweighing any reduced impacts from digitisation.
But when it comes to music’s environmental footprint, the impact of the materials we use to make music – instruments and equipment – receives very little attention. And yet, addressing this aspect of music’s environmental impact arguably requires and inspires more creativity than any other.
A resourceful music practice overturns the consumerist model by taking the unsustainability of the modern economy and music industry as the starting point without compromising creativity. Its underlying premise asks: what if, instead of continually purchasing and consuming new records, devices, instruments, pedals, amplifiers, gadgets etc., we could fulfil the desire for new sounds and musical possibilities by using only the materials already available to us, and bringing in new materials only when they have minimal environmental impact? Limitations and boundaries are widely accepted to enhance creativity – why not apply ecological and planetary boundaries to musical creativity?