September 20, 2012

Performance piece featuring amplified bicycles comes to West campus

Posted: September 20, 2012
Travelon Gamelon in Amsterdam
Among the hundreds of performances of "Travelon Gamelon" around the world was this 1983 performance of the promenade version in Amsterdam.

For ASU professor Richard Lerman, the sounds of bicycle spokes evoke aural images of the rich Southeast Asian musical tradition of gamelan, which features metallic gongs, wooden instruments, drums and flutes. That connection inspired Lerman to create “Travelon Gamelon,” a live piece of performance art that is accomplished by attaching pickup devices and amplifiers to bikes.

“Travelon Gamelon” will be performed at 4 p.m., Sept. 27, on ASU’s West campus. The outdoor performance will feature both the promenade and concert versions of the piece.

“When I realized that amplified bicycles sounded similar to gamelan music, I was inspired to create this work in 1977, and it received its premiere in Boston,” said Lerman, a professor in the School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies in ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.

“With the promenade version, I wanted to make a piece that moved through the city, sounded good and was enjoyable for the performers and the audience,” he said. Twenty bicycles are outfitted with a pickup device built by Lerman and a battery-powered amplifier. Pickups attached near the spokes amplify the pitch in the spokes which is sent to small loudspeakers. This sound will broadcast as the performers ride and walk their bicycles around the West campus.

The concert version of “Travelon Gamelon” will then be performed by six musicians on three upside-down bicycles on Fletcher Lawn in the center of campus.

Since its 1978 premiere in Boston, “Travelon Gamelon” has been performed widely in the United States, in cities including New York, San Francisco, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Chicago and Missoula, and in countries including Canada, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Germany, Poland, Belgium and New Zealand.

“My intention was to create a piece of contemporary music to be played in the ‘streets’ while also enhancing interest in bicycles,” Lerman said. “It’s gratifying to see that there has recently been a resurgence of interest in the piece.”

Most recently “Travelon Gamelon” was performed in Germany in May 2012 in four cities. It will also be performed in October for the opening of the Logan Art Center at the University of Chicago.

The Sept. 27 performance at the West campus is free and open to the public; visitor parking on campus costs $2 per hour. For more information about this and other upcoming arts events on campus, visit http://campus.asu.edu/west/events.

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Public Affairs at the West campus