Plastic Souls – an artwork on the sonification of plastic waste.

Beaches all over the world are buried under plastic waste, which inspired us to create Plastic Souls: a floating musical instrument entirely made of plastic waste acquired by beachcombing. The waves of the sea will act as the musician of the instrument, which thereby also takes on the role of a siren and hopefully make people more aware of the disturbing trend of plastic waste on beaches and in oceans and seas. This post is for creating Plastic Souls, on how to build your own floating instrument.

a  review in Neural 54

This project was made possible with the kind support of Mondriaan Fonds, the Mexican Centre for Music and Sonic Arts and Porticello Artist Residencies.

Logo downloads EN web roodlogoCMMAS_color









We will make manuals in different languages (soon in French)
but here is the first in English

Here is the first in Spanish

You find material by Beachcombing and then sort the material that you found on the beach.
Put any bottle that is broken or damaged in the garbage, you can’t use those. Split the remaining bottles in two groups: those made of thick material and those made of thin material. Bottles made of thick material should be used to create the flutes, because they are easier to mount then the thick walled bottles. The bottles made of thin material you can use to create rope to bind your instrument together. Tools I used are:battery drill , cutter, saw, hot glue, hairdryer, small file, shears, scissors, tenon saw, bottle cutter, pliers, metal wire.


Of course you need something to put all your flutes and constructions together. You can use rope, but the idea is to make an instrument entirely out of plastic. Luckily we can create rope from the thin bottles.

Before you can do this, you need to make sure your bottles are smooth. To remove all the ridges and bumps you only have to close the bottles and keep them above a gas stove. The air inside the bottle will expand because of the heat, making the bottle nice and smooth. Of course this only works when there are no holes in the bottle.

The first thing you need to create to make rope from bottles is a rope cutter.
you can oder one online Here
But I used this Youtube tutorial for making my own. :

When you have your rope cutter you can then make your rope. How you do that I explain in the video below. Note that when you use older bottles, the plastic will break easily because it is not so flexible anymore. So make sure you use newer bottles. And as mentioned before, only use bottles made of thin plastic to create ropes. The thicker bottles you can use to create the flutes.

To create the flutes all you need is a piece of PVC pipe.
For the complete instructions on how to make a flute you can watch the video.

The installation will be placed in the sea and the energy of the waves will play the instruments. To make sure that the flutes are actually played by the waves, the instrument has to lie in the water and not on the water. To achieve this you can fill bottles with stones, thereby creating an anchor. Make sure you put enough stones in the bottle to make it drown, otherwise it doesn’t make a difference.

I made a long floating construction with al sorts of bottles/flutes in a long row. In that way you can place the instrument in a 90 degrees angle to the coast, so that each wave rolling to the coast will play the flutes one after the other. I am using a catamaran like construction to prevent it from tilting.

Future Plans
I want to make a “river version” of plastic souls because so far, I have tested the installation only in the open sea and would like to experiment how it works in a river environment.
Meaning harvesting the energy of the current instead of that from the waves, this would open up many new possibilities.
I have Started to develop a model that should play in a river using the energy of the current.
A star shaped construction that will function as a impeller, the spinning /rotating, providing the water pressure to pump air in the instruments. The plan is to build and test it in the Danube this summer at Time’s Up – Laboratory for the construction of experimental situations in Linz (A)

When I came back to my instrument in the sea after two  day’s of strong waves the whole construction had drifted of . So I have to research where in the construction I have to fixate my instrument with an anchor, how to make the anchor construction in order to stop it from moving and/or shifting .

I want to do research on different forms for the construction of the instrument. Different shapes I want to try are star shaped, square shaped and a long line.
I also want to do figure out how to mount the bottles without rope. Using rope will put extra pressure on the bottles, making some bottles to lose their bottom and thereby losing their firmness. Another issue with mounting the bottles with rope is that the bottles are not that easy to attach as floaters to the construction, because of the air pressure that makes them a bit balloon shaped.
Making flutes.
Last but not least I want to explore other possibilities on making flutes. This time I made them from PVC pipe, but the whole point of this project is to make an instrument from plastic waste, or at least materials you can find on the beach. PVC pipe is not a material that you find on the beach that often.

Plastic Souls – an artwork on the sonification of plastic waste.

Plastic Souls – an artwork on the sonification of plastic waste.

Plastic Souls – an artwork on the sonification of plastic waste.

Plastic Souls – an artwork on the sonification of plastic waste.