Disarm: Turning Guns Into A Mechanised Musical Orchestra

[Pedro Reyes] is a visual artist who lives in Mexico City. His most recent project was called ‘Disarm’ – a unique exhibit that combined dismantled weapons with sculpture and technology.

The army in Mexico seizes firearms on a regular basis and they are typically either buried or destroyed. But this time a friend working for the National Crime Prevention Commission thought to ask [Pedro] if he could use them for something. A few hundred non-functional guns later, and [Pedro] has a fully automated mechanical orchestra. The articles don’t go into much information about how it works, but it looks like solenoids are mostly utilized to actuate the various instruments. The entire setup is then controlled by a computer, but there’s not much information on the interface design.

When asked about the project, [Pedro] explained his reasoning: “The beautiful thing about ‘Disarm’ as a project is that it combines music, with sculpture, and at the same time, with technology. This is the redemption of metal that could have taken your life or mine. So they are better as musical instruments.”

Watch the 8 minute documentary on ‘Disarm’ by the Creators Project after the break. The weapon-based orchestra sounds pretty good!

This isn’t the first time he’s made something different out of firearms. Culiacán is a city in western Mexico that has one of the highest rates of gun related deaths in the country. So in 2008 he ran a project called Palas por Pistolas (Shovels for Guns), where they collected over 1500 firearms from the people of Culiacán and melted them down and then forged them into  shovels to help a botanical initiative. The people trading guns in received vouchers that they could use to buy electronics or household appliances.

[via adafruit]

45 thoughts on “Disarm: Turning Guns Into A Mechanised Musical Orchestra

  1. Very well done – the music is all right too. Especially since it’s a robotic orchestra. I like the message too. Violence is bad in Mexico, glad to see a happy highlight. Also o fully expect this thread to be about guns vs no guns and a complete lack of focus on the art project :P

    1. Probably, because both you and the artist have chosen to take it in that direction. It could have just been an art project from old guns. Instead, it’s about “redeeming” these inanimate objects.

      1. The story’s all it has going for it.
        The workmanship on anything you actually get to see up close is horrible. Plus half of the guns look like they were tacked on as an afterthought.

        At least the shovels looked like they were made by someone who gave a crap about what they were making.

          1. ‘…and the grabbers beat the stolen guns into sparkling, new Prius and sent the left-overs to drug lords in Mexico. Doves flitted about and suddenly peace was all around.’ Sigh.

    2. Seeing as art is meant to provoke discussion, I don’t see how this would be a bad thing. With the theme’s the artist is going for, melting guns down to produce proper tools, I’d say that it’s clear on what page he stands.
      That being said, for ages the arguments made by trigger happy red neck types have stayed the same. The only thing that has changed is how loud they say it and the piling heap of death they ignore.
      So, eventually, you are right. Get ready for some extremely retarded definitions of protection, freedom, rights, self defence, causal history, law and reason.

      1. Saying “Seeing as art is meant to provoke discussion…” and then calling people rednecks makes you look a wee bit disingenuous, like you’re using art as a shield to take potshots at people you’ve already passed judgement on.

        1. Not to mention his blatant discrimination toward what he decides is a monolithic and simplistic group of people. Gun owners and advocates in the US include not only rural and lower middle income individuals who use them as tools daily but doctors lawyers teachers’ single mothers in urban environments’ the elderly the disabled black white Hispanic and Asian among others. And if the arguments have not changed its probably because they are as valid now as they were then and antis have failed to effectively argue against them.

          1. To be fair, he never said all Gun owners. Merely that the “red neck” owners make the same arguments.
            From what I have seen he is mostly right in terms of internet comments. Its rarely the reasonable that reply, but rather the (small minority) that don’t even want background checks. Those that any restrictions of guns in any form is bad.
            The extreams fight in the comments, the middle ground stays mostly quite.

        2. I never claimed I was in favour of balance and equality in this particular discussion, now did I? Political correctness, regarding stupid people as equal and their moronic world views and useless opinions as something that needs to be respected has done enough damage. The idiot(s) who claimed generalisation isn’t a good idea and that stereotypes are not useful certainly was at the receiving end of a good argument.
          I’m all in favour of ignoring the crap out of them!

          1. “The same could be said of both sides of many modern “discussions”. But this isn’t the forum for that.”
            It could, but it would not make a whole lot of sense.
            Also, I thought I put myself down as a supporter of actually not doing do.

      2. Those age-old arguments that these “red necks” make are the same because when they’re right, they don’t need to come up with anything new, the arguments only need to be repeated (I suppose because the other side doesn’t ever listen). The reason that those heaps of death aren’t exponentially bigger is because of an armed “red neck” populace.

        1. The persistence of a argument is no way reflects its validity.
          The arguments against homosexuals having the right to marry, or even anti-evolution arguments, haven’t changed much either.

          ” The reason that those heaps of death aren’t exponentially bigger is because of an armed “red neck” populace.”

          [citation needed]

          1. The persistence of a argument is no way reflects its validity. [citation needed]
            The arguments against homosexuals having the right to marry, or even anti-evolution arguments, haven’t changed much either. [citation needed]

            As you can see it is rather childish to expect everything to conform with academic standards, especially when your own writing fails in the same manner.

          2. Actually, the arguments against homosexual marriage have changed quite a bit over the years…in fact it used to be an argument about if they should be free to walk the streets, then it was adoption, now it is a very odd claim that marriage is only for producing future state citizens…an argument that breaks down when you realize that no one is fighting against sterile heterosexuals marrying. Those are just a few of the devolutions…there have been dozens more along the way.

            When one side of an issue continually changes their stance, sometimes in ways that negate the arguments from their old stance that everyone on their own side already knows to be wrong, the only thing you cannot say for sure is, “Their current argument might not be wrong”…and that’s assuming you don’t have hard evidence that it is wrong…but you can generally assume it to be wrong. Well, that and when every dictator in the last 100 years does the same thing, you can be reasonably sure it isn’t a good thing.

            Well, anyway, it is a nice art piece. Art does not have to be pretty or well put together, and it is still art even if it comes from a stance that most people are against (I’m saying in general, not necessarily in this case).

      3. I’m anti-gun myself but I don’t support your argument. I find guns too be to dangerous and personally feel that the general public is not qualified to use them. However their argumemt happens to be very valid, it’s not just a bunch of “screaming rednecks” as you have stated, it is a large group who feel that people being armed discourages violent crime, they also point out that it is their constitutional right (at least in the US). There is plenty of evidence supporting both sides. In most cases I support the people who feel the same way I do, but anyone who uses the term “retarded future” as a defense of their case, does not deserve the support of their peers.

        1. “but anyone who uses the term “retarded future” as a defense of their case, does not deserve the support of their peers.”
          That is why you are weak and communities with your attitude will fail.

          1. “That is why you are weak and communities with your attitude will fail.”

            That has got to be one of the worst rebuttals I have ever heard short of a vehement and unintentional agreement and makes you come off as the extremely elitist type who would rather use those around them for a human shield than allow those same people the tools to defend themselves and you.

            I would say I feel bad for those as narrow-sighted as you but to be honest, I’ve already expended more effort in this response than someone as argumentative as yourself is really worth. You present yourself as undeserving of any empathy.

            I hope the scales come off your eyes sooner rather than later…

        2. With well over 300 million guns in the US and a tiny percentage of those guns actually used to cause harm to anyone how do you figure they are to dangerous for the general population to possess? Cars (that have been designed for decades to not kill) kill and maim many more people so in strict terms of real world danger cars are far worse. And if the GP is un able to handle guns morally and safely how do you support the same populace having even more power through our inclusive political system? Keep in mind that well over 90% of all self defence instances involving guns are ended without anyone being shot, I think that shows people handle guns well enough.

      1. Both pithy, but actually you are both correct.

        When viewed as a lesson: Doktor Jeep is correct when viewed from the perspective of the results of rebellion against what Is 2 is teaching. You are correct from the perspective of adherence to what Is 2 is teaching.

        When viewed as prophetic: Doktor Jeep’s statement is correct because that is “the way things are” right now in this world (ie. if you don’t have a way of defending yourself/city/nation, someone will eventually rule and/or kill you because the world is full of evil people). You are correct because that is the way things *will* be (ie. scripture also talks about there will be no more training for war therefor there is no need for defenses).

  2. No hack here — just anti-gun politics. What a brilliant idea — introduce politics into hackaday! A site focused on “hacks” where everyone pretty much gets along, regardless of their politics, is boring. Forget concrete engineering principles and hard-won innovation. Let’s move on to subjective topics where opinion and emotion are all that matter. I can’t wait…

    Why did you start with guns? That is *so* unfair. Guns take up far more than their fair share of political discourse. What about LGBTQ? What about NSA surveillance? What about racism? What about “undocumented workers”? What about abortion? These are all just as valid a political cause as guns. People “hack” these all the time. Why didn’t you use one of them first? You are a hater, there’s no other explanation. I am sick of the pro-gun rednecks and anti-gun bed wetters getting all the press. It isn’t fair. I demand that you give these other causes equal time by posting “hacks” about them.

    1. Everyone seems to overlook what this project actually was – taking already destroyed guns and turning them into something else. They were not functional, the army already made sure of that. It was either this art project or bury/melt them.

      My views on guns had nothing to do with my posting of this story.

      The fact is the guy made a mechanical and automated set of musical instruments. Regardless of the base material (in this case, guns), the story would of been posted because of what the end product was – a hacked together mechanical orchestra controlled via computer. By definition, it is a hack.

      People commenting are choosing to make a debate about it, and that is their choice. HaD is not part of that debate. We have an open discussion forum, and that’s that, plain and simple. If you don’t want to participate, you don’t have to. Whatever the comments argue, they don’t really mean anything -no one’s going to change their views over a few internet comments.

      1. I think you’re right. Well, mostly.

        As the guns seem to be used as extraneous adornments, or arbitrarily replaceable structural components, I question acceptance of the creator’s claim that they’ve truly been “turned into instruments”.

        Now if some were modified but capable of firing blanks, and used to perform AC/DC’s “For Those About to Rock”, he would have achieved that claim. Or used to pneumatically fire steel bearings from their barrels at percussive instruments, Animusic-style. But of course, using a gun as a functional component in ways that it naturally lends itself to, would remind one of the original use. He’d probably consider that to detract from the intended message, which just makes the claim more suspect in my opinion. And if one considers the claim bogus, that rather inescapably leads to why the claim was made in the first place – politics.

        I also think that the inclusion and particular wording of your final paragraph on “Shovels for Guns”, which is neither a hack itself, nor related to the main topic on any technical level, betrays your personal political stance. I assume it was unintentional, as the rest was flawlessly neutral. Folks do notice such things, even if it’s only subconsciously, and feel compelled to respond in kind.

        But yes, the orchestra is definitely a hack. And I enjoyed listening to it.

        1. Excellent points Chris! I agree.

          I only added the shovels for guns segment as a bit of a back story on the artist – also explains why they thought to give him more guns later on to do this project. I guess I can see how that could be construed as my beliefs leaking through, but to be honest I don’t even have a firm belief on the whole debate – I live in Canada, so it really doesn’t affect me one way or another.

  3. A point this article (unintentionally) makes about Mexico is that *in spite of* gun laws so restrictive that there is only a single place in Mexico City to legally purchase a gun, the country still has a very high rate of violent crimes where the tool of choice is a gun.

    Mexico is a perfect example of why prohibition of an item that is not itself inherently dangerous but can be used in a dangerous fashion, always results in a huge increase in the number of people doing so.

    In the USA, prohibition of alcohol led straight to the rise of organized crime. Before then, those families and associations were rather small time, mostly in illegal gambling. Oh, yet another prohibition causing crime merely by defining an activity as criminal.

    As part of the inappropriate response to the results of their own stupidity, the government passed the 1934 National Firearms Act, lying through their teeth with claims that fully automatic firearms were the “weapons of choice” among criminals – when the facts were the opposite.

    When alcohol prohibition was repealed, the vast government bureaucracy created for it “had” to be given another task so another item was picked out, cannabis. I don’t know if it was government stupidity or avarice and bribery by those who stood to benefit (tobacco companies and the synthetic fiber industry) but the American government lumped in all 41 subspecies of Cannabis Sativa with low THC levels (0.3% or less) with the *one* subspecies, Cannabis Sativa Indicia, that is so different in its qualities – poor fibers and THC of 2% to over 20% – that it ought to be classified as a completely different plant. This prohibition was yet again abetted by outright lies (“Reefer Madness”) same as alcohol prohibition and gun ban/control laws.

    Of course there are lies on the other side, that marijuana is *never ever* a “gateway drug”. While there are some whose mental condition or biochemistry can get by with going no further than a toke once in a while, there are many who start on marijuana and smoke more and more until their tolerance is so high they get nothing from it and go looking for something more. I personally know people who went from pot to crystal meth for exactly that reason, and are damn lucky they had people who cared enough to get them off it. (They still smoke tobacco and would benefit from quitting that too, least of the reasons being all the money wasted on it. Addiction to anything is a horrible way to waste your life.)

    The result of prohibition of all varieties of Cannabis Sativa in the USA is plain to see. The destruction of what was a big industry growing hemp (the farmers of which would destroy any Cannabis Sativa Indicia they found near their fields because cross pollination harmed their crop), the creation of massive international criminal organizations and a huge increase in the demand for the banned product.

    I am 100% against anyone smoking marijuana, or drinking alcohol or ingesting or injecting other such substances – but if you can do it in a way that causes proximal physical harm to only yourself, have at it dumbarse. It’s only your mind and body you’re destroying.

    Prohibiting such things only gets more people interested in trying them and provides an illicit market and inflated prices for criminals to take advantage of.

    BTW, comparing anything between Canada and the USA, especially when it comes to % of the population doing or having something done to them, is pretty farcical. Canada’s population is about the same as that of California. Why is there less crime or less this or that? Because there’s far fewer *people* up north. Naturally with less people there’s a smaller % of the population out of work and on some form of government assistance, or committing crimes of any sort. Deliberate mis-comparison of unequal percentages of unequal numbers is a common statistical trick to make one or the other number look better or worse than it really is. Any article you read that has only percentages, no hard numbers – the person who wrote it is at best attempting to misdirect the reader into a wrong conclusion, but usually the author is flat out telling a big lie that falls apart when one looks up the hard numbers.

    1. You, sir, make an entire slew of excellent points.

      I personally am not absolutely opposed to use of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances, though I suppose functionally my opinion is the same as yours. I don’t use them because I don’t see the point, but if you can do it without putting others at risk… Hey, I have no right to stop you.

      On the topic of crime comparisons, I would also like to point out that the United States is the ONLY nation in the world where “Found a dead body, not obviously suicide or natural causes” is the criteria for marking a death as a murder. Britain and Canada both only mark something as a murder once a murderer has been tried and convicted, and then all murders that person committed are tallied for the year of conviction, not the year of incident.

      Not sure how Japan does it, but I do know their police are hilariously fraudulent when it comes to crime reporting. A man with bruises and burns all over his body indicating he was obviously beaten and tortured to death by Yakuza was marked as “heart disease” and nobody batted an eye.

      1. I was listening to NPR the other day (like most of their work but their 2nd amendment stance is deplorable) and they had a story about CIA (or FBI?) investigations and one man specifically who photographs landmarks and industrial facilities as an artist. This man is reported often enough that they have a running file on him and contact him regularly despite concluding long ago that he is in no way a threat. The tone of the piece seemed to be concern for 1st amendment erosion for the sake of national security measures that simply don’t work. They seemed sympathetic to the mans concerns about the government collecting information on him and monitoring him for doing what is a confirmed right for him to do. Im sure on this forum of all places people would sympathize with that feeling and would object to being obtrusively monitored as they conducted builds and practiced their free speech in various forms. So that being said why would any one here think that us gun owners would feel any differently about being tallied and monitored through any sort of universal back round check system (that by definition MUST include a universal registration system) For doing something that is by definition legal and a confirmed right? How can anyone concerned with liberty and 1st amendment rights conclude that gun owners concerned about being on lists and having guns confiscated (happened not long ago btw) are some how crazy or delusional? or even unreasonable? We all rage against our privacy being violated for the sake of security, how can you fault others for having the same concerns for the very same reasons?

        Volfram, this isn’t aimed at you btw. Just venting generally :)

          1. Thank you :)

            If any of you are interested in HAD style builds and innovation relating to firearms and other similar devices check out the weapons guild forum. Between the condition of many donor guns the variety of mechanisms and the applicable laws that must be considered there is some awesome innovation in that group.

      1. That was a great anime with (what I believe to be) an ugly but true “evil follows people, violence follows evil, sometimes violence is the only way to respond lest there be more violence” under-tone.

  4. Eh, it would have been more impressive if he had actually used the gun parts themselves to make the instruments instead of just hanging servos off of them. They have plenty of mechanical parts in them after all, pawls, springs, etc. etc.

  5. “Technology is neither good nor bad; it depends on how you use it.”

    Less than three seconds later…

    “I’m taking this piece of metal that represents our instinct for killing each other,”
    That subtitle embossed right over a picture of two destroyed M1911s. Nauseating.

  6. “[Pedro] explained his reasoning: “The beautiful thing about ‘Disarm’ as a project is that it combines music, with sculpture, and at the same time, with technology. This is the redemption of metal that could have taken your life or mine. So they are better as musical instruments.”” There is absolutely nothing beautiful about disarming citizens and taking away an effective means of self defense. Firearms aren’t exclusively used to shoot people, they have a multitude of uses, the fact that the majority of gun-grabbers ignore the many uses of firearms and only mention their use to kill is laughable and pathetic. There is no arguing the fact that everyone has the god given right to self defense, I’m not gonna rely on a cop that takes 10- 20 minutes to get to my area and save me from a criminal who could kill me withing 1-5 minutes. This isn’t something that should be argued over.

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