Has a bicycle ever been music to your ears?
If it’s never occurred to you before, Johnnyrandom (aka Flip Baber) could change your world.
The composer and musician released a single earlier this year that had music made entirely from the sounds of a bicycle. The song has really taken off, getting Baber all kinds of media attention. When I interviewed him this week, he had just visited with “CBS Sunday Morning.”
Baber will be in Vermillion at the National Music Museum today and tomorrow (May 9 and 10) doing some free presentations. I have a feeling they will be quite interesting.
Here is the story I wrote about Baber in advance of his visit:
When Johnnyrandom (musician Flip Baber) released a single composed entirely with sounds made from bicycles earlier this year, he knew it had potential to find an audience.
However, the Emeryville, Calif., composer and sound designer has been pleasantly surprised at just how large the audience for “Bespoken” has become.
“You never know what will resonate with a global audience, especially when you’re not on a record label and releasing a single digitally, etc.,” Baber told the Press & Dakotan during an interview this week. “It was nice to see it take off online. The metrics show it was received well internationally, as well. I think the only thing I didn’t expect for a debut single release was being interviewed by ‘CBS Sunday Morning’ this past week. That was a lot of fun.”
Baber will appear at the National Music Museum on the campus of the University of South Dakota today (Friday) and Saturday.
Today, he will do two free presentations at the museum — one at 12:05 p.m. and the other at 7 p.m.
“I’m really looking forward to speaking at the National Music Museum,” Baber said. “It will be a TED-style presentation with lots of audio, video and insight into the creative process behind ‘Musique Concrète’ or ‘Found Sound’ music. I’m hoping to have audience members come up onstage to coax sounds from bicycles, as well.”
From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Baber will be featured in free demos throughout the second day of the museum’s open house, which is taking place during USD’s commencement weekend.
Most people are familiar with Baber’s work, even if they don’t realize it.
He created of the “Doritos® crunch” sound effect and has also done commercial work for companies like Adidas and Google. Additionally, he has composed sounds for museum installations.
“It does seem odd to have my foot in both worlds, if that makes sense,” Baber stated. “I sort of view my past commercial work as my ‘day job.’ I am currently transitioning away from commercial work into long-format film scoring, specifically using the combination of orchestral instrumentation with found objects as my medium.”
The idea for “Bespoken” stemmed from a childhood fascination with the sounds that could be made by a bicycle, according to Baber. He describes his younger self as a bit of a recluse who liked to learn through his years.
“There was a fair amount of isolationism involved in the germination of these ideas — although, I wouldn’t want to equate that with being lonely,” Baber said. “I was a very happy kid, experimenting, composing, exploring. I felt a tremendous amount of creative freedom without the burden of expectations. Presently, I do require intense focus to record found objects, but none of that interferes with a healthy social life!”
In order to make “Bespoken,” Baber recorded various sounds, such as spinning pedals, changing gears and clicking brake levers. He also employed things like a violin bow or a guitar pick to use on a spoke or a rotating tire. The intense process took seven months.
Baber said he developed approximately five ideas for a possible song while recording material for “Bespoken.” In the end, he came up with what sounds like an electronic pop song.
“If there was a source of inspiration, it was probably Radiohead’s ‘Kid A,’ he stated, referring to the popular British rock/electronic band. “Even though my composition may have sounded electronic, it was 100 percent acoustic.”
It’s likely that bicycle sounds will be used in future compositions.
“Out of thousands of sounds, only 50 ended up in ‘Bespoken,’ so there is enough material to create several albums of music,” Baber said. “I’d be surprised if I didn’t come back to it at some point.”
He is currently recording the sounds of kitchen objects for a new composition.
“The kitchen-based project is called ‘Clarify’ and should be released towards the end of the summer with a short film,” Baber said.
“Bespoken” and future releases follow a theme of awareness of one’s surroundings, he added.
“It promotes tuning in rather than tuning out,” Baber said.
People hoping to see and hear a live performance of “Bespoken” at the National Music Museum this weekend will have to curb their expectations.
“I did get a call from ‘America’s Got Talent’ a few weeks ago, inquiring if I could do a live performance,” Baber said. “It is possible, but you’d need 50-plus bicycles, advanced robotics and some software development.
“I’d estimate it would cost $1.5 million to develop. Maybe it’ll happen if there are some applied technology and bicycle music grants out there …”
Baber does hope people leave his presentations and/or demos with a creative spark.
“I hope people expect the unexpected,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to inspire.”
To see a video about how “Bespoken” was made, visit http://vimeo.com/jrandom.