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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bikes as instruments in Richard Lerman's Travelon Gamelon

Posted By on 10.10.12 at 06:00 PM

Vintage Travelon Gamelon
  • Vintage Travelon Gamelon
As part of this weekend's ambitious Logan Launch Festival—the three-day blowout celebrating the opening of the $114 million Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago—sound artist, filmmaker, and minuscule-microphone wizard Richard Lerman is visiting campus to bend brains with the organic soundscapes and peculiar symphonies produced by his handmade piezo disk transducers and microphones—particularly when fastened to bicycles.

Presented by the Film Studies Center, Sonic Environments: The Work of Richard Lerman begins Thursday with an installation of Lerman's disk transducers secured to the support beams of the Logan Center for the Arts building's north stairwell. Meant to "amplify the otherwise unheard sounds of the building itself," the microphones will offer a voice to the building's creaks and groans, as well as the stomps and pants of those scaling the stairs. Friday's portion of the program features screenings of Lerman's film and video work, including live accompaniment by Brian Labycz, Art Lange, and Guillermo Gregorio who will create the sound-generated images use the images in Sections for Screen, Performers and Audience as a score.

But considering this blog series focuses on two-wheeled modes of transportation—see my previous posts on Moped and ditching your bike helmet for actual proof of this fact—the weekend's highlight is Saturday's participatory performance of Lerman's Travelon Gamelon. Titled in honor of the percussive gamelan orchestras of Indonesia, the composition involves attaching a series of piezo disc microphones to bicycles' spokes, forks, and fenders and amplifying them with a kind of rigged-on, crude megaphone. Lerman creates a multitude of rhythmic sound textures that congeal into a fluttering chorus of clicks and clanks and heavy buzzes as the bikes roll in unison. Though the audio tracks from Lerman's 1982 album, Travelon Gamelon: Music for Bicycles, often race together in a shimmering clutter of sonic oddities, the dizzying mass of sound just as easily turns unnerving when the amplified noises rapidly pan from speaker to speaker.

Saturday's 20-bike performance of Travelon Gamelon begins at 1:30 PM and is followed by a "concert" version of the piece at the Logan Center's courtyard stage at 3:30 PM. To participate in the free Hyde Park ride (yes, there's still time!) call the Film Studies Center at 773-702-8596. Also, have a bike with metal spokes. And a helmet.

Below you can check out a performance of the piece in Munster, Germany, as well as a pair of tracks from the album:

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Stills Art Institute of Chicago
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