||PURSUIT will feature a veritable orchestra of mobile, bicycle-powered acoustic musical instruments utlising the Ice Rink under the Big Top at Luna Park, Sydney.
Envisaged is a specially-choreographed spectacle of sound, speed and light based on the individual, duo and team pursuits of cycling sport. Depending on resources, entire cycling clubs could be involved, wave upon wave of cyclists - each cycle fitted with some kind of music making device. The physicality of sport itself will be experienced and expressed as music with amplified medical instruments and a PA system sounding out the heart beats, the muscle movements, the accelerated breathing of athletes in their existentialist race against the clock (or each other).
So far two bicycle powered prototype instruments have been built and tested; documented here as sound, image and video.
The first instrument is called, logically enough, the VIOCYCLE. It is a violin played hurdy-gurdy style with a small wooden wheel geared down to a suitable speed by a set of rollers and belts. A bowing speed lasting two seconds from frog to tip of bow (0.6 meters) was estimated and the gearing set accordingly. Even at a test speed of 15-20 kilometers per hour, phenomena such as phasing, delays, and pitch shift caused by the Doppler effect, are clearly audible and stunningly enhanced by the acoustics of the space. As one can hear from the sound on this page, a doppler shift of a semitone was recorded. The violin sounds pure and is about three times louder than a normally-bowed instrument. The next stage will be to fit guitar machine heads instead of pegs for ease of tuning and re-tuning while underway and to build a simple capo-style system for elementary shifts of pitch - basically so anyone with a good ear will be able to ride and play.
The second instrument to be tested was the PIPECYCLE. A range of diapason pipes and whistles were powered by a huge set of bellows bolted onto the back of the bicycle. It is intended that these bellows will eventually power a windbox which will be fitted with sliders controlling the airflow to a range of flu and reed pipes - like a simplified church organ mechanism.
The full chamber orchestra will consist of four bowed string instruments modelled on the above. The basic belt driven mechanism will, however, drive 2 PIANOCYCLES, 3 PIPECYCLES, and 3 DRUMCYCLES - all yet to be built.
PIANOCYCLES will utilise the soundboard and strings of an autoharp (like a very small piano) in the same position as the violin above the front wheel on the bicycle. The belt mechanism will drive a series of hammers which will strike the strings at speeds beyond that of a player piano.
PIPECYCLES could end up using a variety of mechanisms. Whistles could be driven by air collected in a funnel attached to the back of the frame but positioned above the cyclist; cycle crank powered fans and bellows will create enough wind pressure to make larger organ pipes speak. These bicycles will be hard work to ride, so musicians will need to be in top physical condition (well not really).
DRUMCYCLES will utilise the belt mechanism in a similar way to the PIANOCYCLES - an estimated two tuned drums to each bike, plus a clicker which will work directly off the spokes of the rear wheel.
In performance, radio contact microphones will also link the instruments to a central mixer for the option of amplification and electronic manipulations within the mostly acoustic music. Here, the instruments will be panned through a quadrophonic system at different rotational speeds and directions to the live instruments. Other options such as pitch shift and live sampling techniques will be incorporated.
There are two elements so far missing from this proposal: TIME and VISUAL manifestation.
In 1980 I performed a 12 hour marathon violin solo which took place appropriately in a festival entitled Sound Barriers at The Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sydney. The Pursuit project will also tend towards the marathon notion of time. Hopefully, the performance will go for 12 or 24 hours. Perceptions of speed and time start to transform themselves once we escape from the sound bite, the time limitation of a CD (the length of which was based on the slowest version of Beethoven s 9th Symphony), or the duration of a Hollywood movie.
Depending on resources, live video projection will be installed for the performance. These images will be manipulated by an intergrated MAX/JITTER system of continuous controllers which will transform amplified sound and images as a synchronous experience.
THE INSTRUMENT MAKERS.
Harry Vatiliotis is Australia s most known and prolific violin maker with a massive international and local reputation. He has made over 500 excellent classic instruments but is not averse to experimentation; he has built a complete set of ancient Greek harps, and he recently built a superb hybrid tenor violin (The Bird) fitted with four sympathetic strings (in the style of a Hardinger fiddle) for specific string scordatura projects.
Paul Bryant earns his living as a family dentist but has a passion for bicycles, violin building (one of Harry s ex-students), metal work and mechanics. Paul is something of a Renaissance man and is ecologically and politically active. He is also a founding member of the NSW touring Bicycle Club and has a collection of 20 seriously used cycles in his shed ... which MUST have some relevance to this project.
The prototype VIOCYCLE and PIPECYCLE shown on this page were made quickly from available materials and are unashamedly in the Heath Robinson funky class of instrument making. However they work well under test conditions and the sounds are impressive. If sponsors can be found for this project, then highly crafted, finished and polished musical instruments suitable for top racing bikes are envisaged.