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Making music from Mexico's weapons (pictures)

It's an orchestra like no other. Artist Pedro Reyes and a team of musicians engineer 50 amazing-looking musical instruments from destroyed Mexican weapons as a statement on violence in the country.

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Leslie_Katz.jpg
Leslie Katz
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
Leslie Katz
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1 of 9 David Franco, via Pedro Reyes

Melding music

For his project Imagine," Mexico City-based artist Pedro Reyes oversaw the transformation of more than 6,000 confiscated weapons -- revolvers, shotguns, machine guns -- into working musical instruments.
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2 of 9 David Franco, via Pedro Reyes

Guitar gun

From afar it looks like an offbeat banjo, but look closely and you'll spot several pistols. Mexico City-based artist Pedro Reyes and a group of musicians transformed more than 6,000 confiscated weapons into an orchestra of working instruments, including a flute, guitar, and drum kit.
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3 of 9 Video screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

Craftsman at work

Metal from the destroyed weapons would normally have been buried, but instead became a working orchestra in the hands of artist Pablo Reyes and a group of musicians.
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4 of 9 Video screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

Mound of metal

Artist Pedro Reyes took 6,700 weapons, cut into parts and rendered useless, and set out to make them into instruments. A before shot...
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5 of 9 Video screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

Playing percussion

A working percussion instrument made from the scrap metal that once made up Mexican weapons. "It's difficult to explain, but the transformation was more than physical," artist Pedro Reyes says. "It's important to consider that many lives were taken with these weapons; as if a sort of exorcism was taking place the music expelled the demons they held, as well as being a requiem for lives lost."
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6 of 9 David Franco, via Pedro Reyes

Unusual instrument

The weapons that comprise the "Imagine" instruments were once scheduled for public destruction in the notoriously dangerous Cuidad Juarez. Six musicians worked for two weeks "turning these agents of death into instruments of life," artist Pedro Reyes says.
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7 of 9 David Franco, via Pedro Reyes

Yep, it makes music

Extracting sound from the destroyed weapons was "challenging," Pedro Reyes said, but the artists managed to create functioning percussion, wind, and string instruments. As we've previously seen with instruments made from dumpster trash and vintage luggage, music can come from unlikely places.
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8 of 9 David Franco, via Pedro Reyes

Weapons reworked

"Imagine" originated from an earlier Reyes venture called "Palas por Pistolas," which invited the public to exchange firearms for vouchers and electric appliances. The project then involved crushing and melting 1,527 weapons and remolding them into the same number of shovels to plant 1,527 trees. Reyes says he got a call earlier this year from government officials who had learned of "Palas por Pistolas" and wanted to know if Reyes was interested in working with the metal from a new crop of confiscated instruments.
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9 of 9 David Franco, via Pedro Reyes

Firearm flute

Some of the "Imagine" instruments -- such as this flute -- sound remarkably like their more traditional counterparts, as the video below demonstrates. Reyes calls the "Imagine" project "a requiem for lives lost."

Imagine from Pedro Reyes on Vimeo.

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