Performance, interactive sound installation, 2021
by Alexey Grachev, Alexander Bochkov and CYLAND MediaArtLab
2 bicycles, 2 bike trainers, synthesizers, max/MSP, microcontroller

In this piece, the cadence of the sound is generated by the speed at which the cyclist pedals. How the “symphony” is performed depends on who is pedaling. Performance duration — ongoing, during the exhibition hours.

Exhibition FERMENT in Dartington Estate (UK), Cyfest-14 (Sep. 2021)

Cadence is the rotation speed of pedals by the cyclist. This parameter depends on the will and intentions of the cyclist, and the features of the bike and riding surface. In this project, cadence becomes a source of sound and rhythm. The rotation speed of the back wheel depends on the cadence and ratio of the sizes of the front chainring and rear sprocket. You can select them by using the mechanical shifters on the handlebars. The ratio of these two values is the basis of the musical composition created.

The main note \ carrier frequency is set by the front chainring, and the selected rear sprocket directly depends on it. This function is alike to the dependence of pitch of musical instruments, but it is not tempered acoustically, but mechanically depending on the teeth on both chainrings. The rotation of the wheel also acts as a rigger for the synthesizer.

The bikes are not synchronized together and work autonomously. The combinations of cadences and rotation speeds of the back wheels of each bike are analyzed and synthesized into a general four-voice atonal polyphony, where the cadence is initially transposed into audible range.

How the “symphony” is performed depends on who is turning the pedals. Two people on the bikes regulate the sound by their pedaling, and together create the final work. The bikes are facing each other. The visible contact allows the cyclists to see each other and choose how to interact — to be a partner or rival. They may become synchronized, and try to turn the pedals in the same rhythm, to be in harmony. Or they may intentionally disturb this and cause harmonic fluctuations, creating complex combinations of sounds that arise when movements are not synchronized. The project creates the model of a collective orchestrated action, in which the intentions and aspirations of the participant acquire sonic expression.

By this installation, the artists continue the search to reveal rhythms and connections in space. Potentially, they may be produced from any object and manifested in sound. In this project, the source of sound is the “bicycle-human” techno-assemblage.

The engineer/artist observes what an object is capable of besides its original purpose, where its limit is and how this limit can be reached. Sound and its features are determined by the medium itself. The function of a technological object here is important not for its useful effect, but for the distinguishing feature which determines what sound will be created.

In this method of observation, the environment is perceived as simultaneous coexistence of complex systems of sound formation, which are created by the natural and technological worlds. The abstract sound of a bicycle in this project refers to all the “wordless” processes and objects which elude direct observation, but still play an important role determining the sort of world that we live in.

Alexey Grachev

Sound artist, engineer, computer programmer. Born in 1983 in Kaluga, USSR. Graduated from the Bauman Moscow State Technical University (Russia). Completed the program “School for Young Artists” at the Pro Arte Foundation (St. Petersburg, Russia). Artist, technical director and chief engineer of CYLAND MediaArtLab. Participant of the World Event Young Artists Festival (Nottingham, Great Britain, 2012), Cyfest Festivals, special project Urbi et Orbi at the 6th Moscow Biennale (Russia, 2015), The Creative Machine 2 (Goldsmiths, Great Britain, 2018). Participant of The Arts Work of the Future (Tate Exchange, UK, 2018). Since 2015, together with Sergey Komarov, he has developed the sound project Subjectivization of Sound whose basis is the interaction with space and spectators. Lives and works in St. Petersburg, Russia.