Gregory Kozak has sensitive ears.
He hears music when he bangs on cast-off plumbing equipment or plucks stringed instruments made from sailboard rigging and artillery shells.
His project, ScrapArtsMusic, is a green sound created entirely from recycled materials that Kozak finds lying around his home in Vancouver, B.C. On Sunday, Kozak and crew will bring their 145 instruments to town to perform at the Alberta Bair Theater at 3 p.m.
"I'm a pots-and-pans-in-the-kitchen kid," Kozak said Monday in a phone interview. "In some form or another, I've always done that. Almost everything makes a sound if you have the ears to hear it. When I first started putting things together, I would lay down beside a piece to size it up. I'd climb inside, anything I could do to figure out how to use it to make the sound I wanted."
Kozak and his creative partner, Justine Murdy, created ScrapArts-Music 10 years ago and they have been touring it for five years, employing five versatile and athletic performers to play the instruments. Some of the instruments are hand-held, and one is 32 feet long and has 22 strings. Kozak uses bicycle parts, aluminum drums, PVC tubes, coils, anything that makes an intriguing sound to put together percussion, reed and stringed instruments. It's like "Stomp!" with more of a musician's touch.
"It takes people on a trip," Kozak said. "I've put 90 minutes of really exciting stuff together. It's a family-friendly show, but we are serious about creating great music."
In fact, Kozak is a composer who is writing a piece for the Winnipeg Symphony to perform in an upcoming concert, and he has worked with a Philadelphia chamber group to perform some of his music.
When the phrase, "ScrapArts-Music" first came out of Kozak's mouth 15 years ago, he knew he needed some new skills to make it happen. He went to night school to learn welding and checked out library books on engineering and construction. He visited Africa to hear firsthand the energy of African drummers and went to New York to take in the jazz scene in the Puerto Rican neighborhoods.
"I wanted to create an orchestra of invented instruments," Kozak said. "I've made some very odd instruments, but they're not trash, they're sculptures. I've tried to make them as beautiful as possible. In our hands, it's pure art."