MIT Inventor Repurposes Beer Glasses by Transforming Them Into Musical Instruments

Chalice Symphony celebrates the sounds of Stella Artois glassware.

Rock band Cold War Kids uses a handcrafted Chalice Symphony for its new song. (Photo: PRNewsFoto/Stella Artois)

Liana Aghajanian is TakePart's weekend editor. Her work has appeared in ForeignPolicy.com, BBC.com, Los Angeles Times, and TheAtlantic.com.

Can beer making be innovative? Heck, yeah. It recently helped some California towns through a historic drought.

But that's not the only newsworthy story to emerge from the brewing industry of late. MIT sonic inventor Andy Cavatorta has found a way to repurpose beer glasses to remarkable effect.

Cavatorta teamed up with Belgian beer company Stella Artois to create the Chalice Symphony, a collection of four fully functional instruments made from hundreds of Artois chalices. The newfangled instruments—known as the Hive, the Pyrophone, the Star Harp, and the Violinia—will be debuting in a new song by rock band Cold War Kids called “A Million Eyes.”

"All things beautiful require effort, determination, and a dedication to artistry. And with the Chalice Symphony, we set out to highlight these principles showing that the Chalice is not only beautiful design, but can sound beautiful as well," said Stella Artois Vice President Debora Koyama in a press release. 

It's not the first time Stella Artois has formed such partnerships. Over Christmas, the company created a gift-giving campaign in which it donated to Water.org, a nonprofit providing aid to countries that lack access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Likewise, Cavatorta, a graduate of the MIT Media Lab who works on interactive design and robotics, has participated in some intriguing collaborations, most notably with Bjork, renowned composer Tod Machover, and Snapple. The latter collaboration involved an experiment to create a gorgeous drum machine using raindrops.

So what does the new ensemble sound like? The instruments are diverse, with the Hive resembling a xylophone and the Pryophone likened to a boat horn. The Cold War Kids, who released the concept album Dear Miss Lonelyhearts last year and hail from Long Beach, Calif., performed the song live at a launch event for the Chalice Symphony last month.

“What we're really doing is about craft,” Cavatorta says in a video debuting the Chalice Symphony. "There's this great process of just attention and shaping whether you're working with metal, working with wood or software.... It's all about this harmony of the details.”

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