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Dance Party on Wheels

Check out Chiaravelotti's musical Eco-Invention!


Mitch Tobias

When Michael Chiaravelotti plays the musical instrument he designed and built, the air fills with sound so resonant, you feel it in your chest. His rhythms and melodies interweave into a musical landscape, a journey of sorts that will make you want to dance.

Created almost exclusively from building materials repurposed from Chiaravelotti’s remodeling business, the instrument re-creates “sounds that I’ve heard from other instruments and sounds I’ve heard in nature,” he says. One technique he used was making bars like on a xylophone—often from wood flooring—then building chambers tuned to the same pitch as the bars so that when he struck them, their sound was larger and more alive. “It sounds like the jungle and the trees,” says the Lafayette resident. “Those are the sounds I love.”

Chiaravelotti also used pieces of granite “exhumed from the leftover debris of granite countertops,” PVC junction boxes, and synthetic house wrap. Faithful to the idea of using recycled materials, he only allowed himself the occasional new bolt or piece of wood to add to the building project leftovers.

Before creating his circular set of sounds, Chiaravelotti played music professionally, often on simpler handmade percussion instruments—including for President Clinton and with Berkeley Repertory Theatre, The Pretenders, and Elvis Costello.

Check out the cell phone video below!

Chiaravelotti would like to take his musical instrument to science museums, schools, and libraries, where kids could experiment with the physics of sound, and experience how the instrument makes sounds “that bloom,” without electric amplification. “Part of the expression for me is educational. I’d love to have a table of materials and ask, ‘What would you do with this piece of pipe? How would you make this inert piece of material have a voice?’ ”

In the meantime, those of you who want to feel like dancing can hire Chiaravelotti and his amazing music machine—and host the coolest eco-friendly party ever.

For information, call (415) 281-0102.


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