Towards Eco-Organology and Paper Flute Design to Disrupt the Plastic Recorder Industry


  • Ching Jie Kang Tainan National University of the Arts
  • Made Mantle Hood Graduate Institute of Ethnomusicology, Tainan National University of the Arts



distributed capitalism, eco-organology, participatory design, plastic recorder, standardisation


In this article, the concept of “distributed capitalism” (Rifkin, 2011) is used to shift power among administrators, performers and audiences to problematise the homogeneity of unsustainable instrument materials. This shift involves adopting a participatory approach where musicians as key stakeholders get to choose their materials and self-construct their instruments. Instruments, society and ecosystems have intersecting and overlapping relationships that should be studied interdependently through eco-organology (Guy, 2009; Titon, 2013; Allen, 2013; Dawe, 2016), especially when mainstream culture consumption plays a crucial role in the struggle between sustainable materials for instruments and the ecosystem. As an example, mainstream production companies such as Yamaha, Aulos and Fender have standardised the industry and cornered the market for consumers in a top-down consumption model. Educators, artists, and retailers promote the consumption of mainstream instruments, further reinforcing their power of discourse in the materials field. Contesting standardisation, eco-organology involves the study of network relations between tangible materials and aesthetics from the viewpoint of culture and society. As an alternative material, this research project shared paper flutes with elementary school students and conducted over 20 workshops in Southern Taiwan where musicians of all ages self-constructed paper flutes. Paper is readily accessible, recyclable and allows end-users to follow an instruction manual, cut a template out and fold it into a playable flute. End-users participated in material selection, instrument construction and many became critically informed about current environmental issues with the plastic recorder industry. We argue that eco-organology helps decentralise mainstream instruments by educating end-users about eco-friendly materials.


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How to Cite

Kang, C. J., & Hood, M. (2023). Towards Eco-Organology and Paper Flute Design to Disrupt the Plastic Recorder Industry. Malaysian Journal of Music, 12(2), 35–60.