The Bike Band

By Joe Norman, Guest Blogger and Loveland Artist~

I’ve spent a good part of my sculptural career addressing social justice, heritage, political corruption, and our land ethic in the American West.  All worthwhile topics, but not often joyous.

A year or so ago, after moving to Loveland, I decided to build something fun; I also wanted to address two activities that terrified me.  The Disco Wheelie Bike was born.  To summarize the Disco Wheelie Bike: It has a gigantic disco ball for the front wheel, and allows the rider to perform a wheelie while spinning the front wheel/disco ball in the air from the groovy comfort of a platform on the back.

Disco Wheelie Bike

Something different happened when people rode this bike:  there were a lot of instant smiles and laughing, as if the analytical trolls deep in our brainstems were bypassed.

Continuing in my Maybe-Art-Can-Be-Fun-Too Phase (artists call things like this ‘phases,’ normal people know them as ‘socially awkward obsessions’), I designed and built a set of bicycle powered musical instruments.

Bike Band large bike

The concept is straightforward.  Start pedaling the bike, and sounds emerge.  Two are currently installed in the Pocket Park on 4th and Lincoln, and a third will be added later in September.  One is a full-size adult bicycle that plays several percussive instruments, and the second is a tricycle that plays the chimes.

To prototype the sound mechanisms, I worked with a local composer who designed software that modeled the sounds, tempo, and rhythms in a program we could run on a laptop.  I then went around the front range and banged on interesting things with other, smaller, things until I found some that were loud and/or for sale.

With both of these first two BikeStruments I was surprised at how melodic even the random beats and notes became.  It seems like our brains need to make sense of the chaos and pick out unintended patterns.

The installation will be removed late October.

To see some of the process of designing and building the Bike Band, search for the #bikeband hashtag in Facebook or on Instagram.  Please swing by the Pocket Park, try them out, and post your music under #bikeband for us to hear!

Bike Band small bike