Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Bicycle Built for Tunes

As the throes of winter and snow are behind us (hopefully), many of us are in the process of recovering our beloved bicycles from their long winter's sleep.  Bicycles, especially on Loyola's campus and throughout the City of Chicago, are one of the most popular forms of transportation, especially in the warm, summer months. But, transportation, according to Steven Baber a sound designer, composer, and music enthusiast, is no longer a bicycle's only function.

Steven Baber and his sound crew, JohnnyRandom, first became famous for producing sound effects for popular products. You know that awesome "CRUNCH" in Dorito's commercials? Yep, he's the mastermind behind that and dozens of other classic and easily recognizable sound effects used across popular media. His creative and technical ability does not stop there, however. His passion for creating music and new, alternative sounds led him to create the world's newest instrument on one of the world's oldest contraptions: the bicycle.

So, how does one go from producing the "CRUNCH" in a Dorito's commercial to creating a three minute masterpiece on a bicycle? Well, Baber was introduced to the idea when he was commissioned to use bicycle parts for sound effects in a Tsychaikovsky ballet, The Nutcracker. And even though that piece went viral, Baber stated, "I was never fully satisfied with the results until now." Thus, offering us an insight into his perfectionist personality and creative process.
 When asked in a National Public Radio feature why he wanted to play music on the bicycle, Baber stated, "I wanted it to be beautiful. I wanted to capture it well into music composition." He took his high quality sound equipment and recorded every possible sound he could out of the bicycle. From air being released out of a tire and pedals turning, to the click of a stopped break, he extracted every traditional sound out the bike. But he wasn't finished yet. Baber started getting creative with the methods of sound extraction, most notably taking a violin bow to the spokes on a bike wheel to produce a beautiful violin-like sound.  The spokes, however, required hours of individual tuning - an hour per spoke to be exact - so that they all sounded exactly the same. Over the time ollected thousands of sounds, took all the raw elements and made them into an amazing mix - a bicycle compilation, "Bespoken."

The piece is only about three minutes long, but it took Baber close to a full year to finish the song completely. He is self-described as a "recluse" who "was barred from watching TV" and was thus forced to make music out of the things around him.  He also received technical training from CalArts and Berklee College of Music.

Just like many of the Eminent Creatives we have studied in this class, Baber knew that his entirely new and unique method of music-making was going to be a "hard sell" to the general music audience. According to Baber, "When you first tell someone you made a piece of music from bikes, they're not exactly eager to hit play." Thanks to media streams like SoundCloud, however, the song has, since then, gone viral. It seems that the greater music community is not only accepting of alternative instruments and alternative forms of music but highly encouraging.

Check out his musical creative process below -

Baber has said that "through music, I want to change the way that people perceive their surroundings," and through the use of wholly nontraditional instrumentation that, in turn, he hopes will inspire people to look at "everyday objects with wonder." It is obvious that Baber has a creative mind in his work as a sound engineer, composer, and musician. His work calls for collaborative and technological skills, as highlighted by Hagendoorn in Computer with a Rebel Heart.  He possesses an ability to work with a team in order to create amazing and unique sounds for commercials and ads. His work, especially on the bicycle also calls for a sense of mental imagery and a willingness to play. Making music on a bicycle and testing thousands of methods by which you can generate different sounds is innovative and fun. Baber offers us a unique and exciting new way to look at and listen to music.

Article referenced:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.