Bike Powered Sounds at Movable Party

A few weeks ago, I was lucky to DJ a truly green party: Movable Party, a pedal-powered dance party in LA. Participants on three bikes with hub motors powered speakers, a mixer, and laptop in a corner of MacArthur Park with its lake, fountain, and vendors of fresh fruit con sal, limón, y chile. Fittingly the cycling-generated soundsystem made its city debut for CicLAvia, a street closure event which opens up LA’s streets for cyclists and pedestrians. All in the city where car culture was born!

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Movable Parts, the organizers, planners and makers behind the Movable Party, are a group of collaborators and friends whose shared mission is “to deploy creative practices to re-imagine the streets and public spaces in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area…. Our efforts augment the spatial and social flow of the public sphere at a human scale. We believe in the open-source ethos, promoting communalism and free exchange of knowledge…. Experimenting with high-tech and low-tech modes of practices, we make and transform materials ranging from the cultural and embodied, to the mechanical and computational.”

For over three hours Movable Party playfully reversed people’s relationship to electricity switching from merely consuming to generating power. In addition to their hub motors the bikes had been modified with Arduino sensors on the saddle, the pedals and the handlebars. Rocking back and forth on the saddle, squeezing the handlebars in different ways triggered various effects and peddling faster or slower altered the tempo. Voilá bike-human-synthesizer cyborg!

Plans for the future involve creating a moving–bike powered– performance platform with a generator and custom built sound system. Organizers including Wendy Hsiu take inspiration from other minimal resource and human-powered vehicles and street soundsystems, such as Nakashi street music trucks in Taiwan and various mobile music setups everywhere from Indonesia, Mexico, to Japan. I look forward to their next iterations of experiments in human-scale, transnationally inspired  sounds.

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