Music on Wheels: 7 Bicycle Bands

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Few things go together as well as bicycles and music. If you didn't already know that, there are plenty of people who will prove it to you.

The Cycologists

Linsey Pollack has a one-man show on Cycology, the art of playing the bicycle. As Professor Squealy Deetbum, he demonstrates the music of a clarinet made from a bicycle seat stem, frame percussion, the gear cable cello, tuned wheel spokes, a handlebar harmonic flute, and other bicycle parts. He is also a member of the Cycologists, a three piece band consisting of Pollak, Ric Halstead, and Brendan Hook, all playing bicycle parts. Watch a performance of the Cycologists on video.

Frank Zappa

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Pollack is far from the first cycologist. 22-year-old Frank Zappa appeared on the Steve Allen Show in 1963 as a "musical bicyclist" and played two bicycles as instruments, after using most of his time delightfully quipping with Allen. Zappa enlisted the help of Allen and the studio band to produce spontaneous noises and poetry for this performance.

While we're on the subject, here's another example of music made with bicycle parts. These acts are few and far between, but there are other ways bands combine their love of music and their love of bicycles.

St. John's Bicycle Band

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St. John's Bicycle Band consisted of an average of twenty young men from the area of St. John's, Michigan. They marched, or rather, rode bicycles in parades and appeared at civic events all over Michigan from 1886 to 1891. They were offered a job in Ringling Brothers' circus as their parade band, but declined because many of their parents would not consent to the travel involved.

Nederlandsch Wielrijders Muziekcorps

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The Dutch Cyclist Music Corps (translated here) formed in 1927 by Dutch army conscripts. They had armrests welded to their bicycle handlebars so they could play while riding in formation.

Crescendo

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The Crescendo Cycling Brass Band has been riding bikes and playing pop music since 1973. They were just a regular marching band from Opende in the Netherlands before then, when they decided to spice up their act with bicycles. The bicycle routine became so popular they've been asked to perform all over Europe and as far away as Japan.

bicycle

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The band bicycle (with a lower case b) took their show on the road in 1995 with a bicycle tour across America. They stopped in small towns along the way, made new fans, and sold records. They did it again, and again, and drew more publicity and even sponsorships from bike companies. Then finally they were offered a record contract! The band still plays together occasionally. You can keep up with bicycle through their MySpace page.

The Ginger Ninjas

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The Ginger Ninjas are taking music and bicycling a step further by using bikes as a green energy source, for both transportation and stage power.

"In 2007, the Ginger Ninjas became the first band in the history of rock and roll to tour by bicycle, unsupported by automobile. On a 5,000 mile [8,000 km] odyssey from their home in Northern California to the pyramids of southern Mexico, they promoted transportation cycling while also exploring the frontiers of pedal-generated electricity, using their own bikes to power a hyper-efficient sound system."

Find out more about the Ginger Ninjas at YouTube.

Even if you aren't part of a band, you can participate in bicycle music by attending a bicycle music festival. Or you could get some friends together and perform a piece written just for bicycles. Or watch for your opportunity to join a public performance of bicycle music. If you find this is your cup of tea, you might end up the star of the next big bicycle band!

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October 6, 2009 - 4:50am
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