The Bicycle as Musical Instrument turns out to be a surprisingly powerful meme. Last week’s story on the Nutcracker Suite, reconstructed from sampled bike sounds has unleashed links to a whole universe of music produced on bicycles.
The Bike Show, a weekly podcast and radio show from London’s art radio 104.4 FM, happened to do a full podcast episode on music made with bicycles just last week (something in the air, I suppose):
20 November 2006: experimental music and the bicycle, via the all-bike blog Velorution
Best of all, the podcast features artist/composer Stephen Schweitzer‘s fantastic Bikelophone, pictured at top. This bizarre assemblage of gear features not only tuned bike parts, but touch-sensitive panels, keyboards, a 16-channel mixer, bells to ring, a bowl to put stuff in and amplify, a PowerBook … ah, well, let’s just let Stephen try to explain all that’s going on:
Bikelophone [Mouse over for component descriptions]
Flip Baber noted that it would be difficult to perform on bicycles without a whole lot of instruments and players. Sure enough, people have done just that. The Bike Show folks are hoping to challenge Londoners to a Tour de France performance of Godfried-Willem Raes’s Second Symphony for ‘Singing Bicycles.’ If you’re not in London or can’t wait, the piece can be performed with just 12 bicyclists. I think this could be a great way to annoy the New York Police Department: want to crack down on our Critical Mass bike rides? Get ready for some en-masse bike performances!
Impromptu symphonies aside, there are a number of regular bike ensembles. The Levenshulme ensemble plays their bikes live, and even uses this specially-adapted bike-instrument, pictured here (from flickr):
And, from CDM comments, yet two more bicycle ensembles’ music, reviewed by Carbusters magazine:
Bul Bul samples, as did Flip for his project; the Portland Bike Ensemble actually plays bikes as strange amplified instruments in improvised ensemble performances:
Bicycles are stood upside down, wired for amplification through various microphones, and played with a beguiling and surprising array of inventive techniques. Spokes are plucked like the strings of a harp, spinning wheels are touched with microphones to produce ethereal otherworldly tones, and cranks are turned with metronomic regularity. The result is an ambient soundscape just this side of cacophony, a mechanical jungle inhabited by curious and expressive machines calling to one another in an organic language.
Still more via comments: the Triplets of Belleville score (thanks, Eliot — great work on hack-a-day, mate!), and a bicycle sound remix project (which, since it’s open source, I suppose you can still go and remix, even if you can’t get on the CD):
Put together by terrific Vancouver label Ache, Project Bicycle is a concept album, with each track created using a common sample of a bicycle making noise. The record is dedicated to promoting the environmentally-friendly transportation method of bicycling, and while it doesn’t really make me want to jump on a bike and jet it to the corner store for a handful of licorice laces, it is a very solid sampling of experimental electronic music from the scene’s current citizens.
Any bike performers we’ve missed? Play a little bike yourself? Let us know.