The Musical Bicycle

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Composer Sean Og is not your usual cyclist. His 17-year-old bicycle not only helps get him around Dublin but also assists in pushing out the boundaries of musical exploration.

As an improvisationist Sean Og sees musical potential for what is for the rest of us every day functional bric-a-brac. His first partnership with the bicycle was with its wheel, which he played like a harp. He did this by interspersing piano strings with the spokes and tuned them to achieve different tones. Buoyed by that success he quickly moved on to the rest of the parts. Several different types of horns were attached to the frame. On the tubing he fixed a saxophone mouthpiece and to add some percussion he began beating the frame with a drumstick mallet.

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This musical experimentation came to be called ]One-Man-Bike. This re-imagining of a bicycle as a musical toy had its first public airing at the Dublin cycle Festival last July. Sean has performed it twice since then. On each occasion the full-time musician has been somewhat taken aback by the reaction. ‘I have been playing unusual instruments for years, but the bicycle just seems to have some added attraction for people’ he says.

Asked why he makes music from a bicycle Sean replies simply ‘because I like the sound’. He says that from a bike frame it’s possible to achieve notes that are rich in texture and tone.

He amplifies the performance by feeding the sounds into a rack of electronics. He describes the effect as ‘an improvised circular groove’.

Sean Og has been playing the piano since 1987. He is a professional saxophonist, having studied at the London Guildhall School of music. He learnt composition under the Belfast composers Stephen Gardner and Rhona Guilfoyle.

When Sean is not performing solo, he plays with his own group Trihornophone. He’s also a founding member of the stomach box theatre company, for which he scored an operetta in 2005 calls a Season in Hell. Sean and his group, Trihornophone,can be heard at JJ Smith on Aungier Street on the 11th of February.

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