Maker Faire 2007: On the Floor

Reel to Wheel is a massive sound-making device built from bicycle parts and a dismantled reel-to-reel tape deck. Move around the absurdly over-sized controls, and its analog inner workings groan and creak their way through recorded sound. Move the wheel at the right speed, and you get an effect quite like scratching — or, since it’s tape, it’s really “scrubbing.”

Reel to Wheel Project Page, with wonderful hand-drawn illustrations featuring Hank the Dummy.

The project, shown last weekend at the Maker Faire, is the creation of Sasha Leitman, Steven Backer, Jesse Fox, and Jen Carlile at Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), which had their own booth full of musical interfaces and goodies. Like an equally Biggie-Sized string instrument, Reel to Wheel delighted adults and terrified children with its elegant impracticality. If it seems like sculpture, that’s because it is. In the installation version of the same work, the hardware is part of a Rube Goldberg-like configuration of bikes on mannequins and full-sized stationary bicycles.

Maker Faire 2007: On the Floor

This work also suggests that this site has stumbled upon a really bizarre, evolving musical meme. Look at the elements:

Bikes. Our friend Flip Baber created a new arrangement of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy in December, recorded on bike parts. Much to our surprise, this story landed on Digg and launched to the most popular CDM story ever (promptly devastating our server), and Flip wound up on television and national radio. As it turns out, quite a lot of our readers are interested in music made with bikes, including bike ensembles, symphonies, and bikelophones, and bikes that control music and graffiti and inspire a young Frank Zappa.

Reel-to-Reel DJing: Because no one can beat-match on reel-to-reels like BBC Radiophonic Workshop wizard Delia Derbyshire.

So, I’m a little terrified that we’ve hit upon some strange statistical anomaly that seems to be tapping us directly into a musical world entirely based on tape and bicycle technology, but I’ll go with it.