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Meet the bicycle that makes music

As a child, remember strumming music using a playing card and your bicycle tyre’s spokes? Teenagers all over the globe have tried this phenomenon, says Caecilia Tripp, a contemporary visual artiste and filmmaker from Paris. In the city for the past two months, she pedalled the first leg of her global project, Music for (prepared) bicycles, early this month. 

Taking cue from American musician and artiste John Cage (see box), Tripp has modified a carrier bicycle to create music. She worked with handicraft artistes and the local cycle shops to create her musical instrument. She got Nikhil Raunak, an artist from JJ School of Arts, to ride around the city, beginning from August Kranti Maidan to Laxmi Mills.


Stills from Caecilia Tripp’s global project Music for (prepared) Bicycles

The ongoing exhibition includes a 15-minute recording of the performance, still photographs, and yes, the prepared bicycle.

Tripp says, “The idea is to take John Cage to the streets, through a prepared bicycle. Cage was inspired by Indian philosophy, which changed his concept of music. He found perfect music in noise — in street sounds,” explains Tripp. Cage prepared a piano, placing objects such as spoons into the strings. The modified piano played totally different music. “Cage was against the distinction between a performance and its audience. And, the purpose of this project is to create a participatory noise score with people and city as stage,” adds Tripp.

Seven rides
Tripp’s next stops include Mexico City, China and Armenia. At each place, the idea of change will be performed on a new bicycle. Each bicycle procession through the city will be filmed, so that there will be seven films together with the seven bicycles in the end. The bicycle wheels are strung with musical strings of an electric guitar, and playing cards are placed in-between the spikes, provoking musical sounds as the bicycle is on the move. The technique of the inserted playing cards translates John Cage’s ‘prepared piano’ for the bicycle. Tripp chose Mumbai as her first ride destination after John Cage’s deep interest with Indian philosophy and civil disobedience movement initiated by Gandhi as an anarchistic means of change.

The last lap
In the end, all seven bicycles will be exhibited together at one venue. “I am interested in trans-cultural knowledge and through this project I got involved with the city and its people,” says Tripp, who was introduced to Cage’s philosophy and music when she was in art school. “I hung around with students of John Cage, and I was highly influenced by his philosophy of social imaginary, which is the first step to change things. This project has been co-produced by Ratapallax Films New York and Solang Production Bruxelles.

At: 5.30 pm - 10.30 pm, April 29 to May 8, Clark House, opposite Regal Cinema, Colaba

Who is John Cage?
In 1951, John Cage composed Music of Changes, a piece for solo piano. He also created a prepared piano by placing objects such as spoons around the strings, to create different music. He believed that perfect music was the noise one hears in street sound. He was highly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and the civil disobedience movement. 

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