Rubber & Tin: Creating Sound Devices for your Bicycles

This post is reprinted with permission from Nat Evans on It has been edited slightly from the original.

bike flute

The bicycle instrument workshop and group ride Rubber & Tin is the first event in a series called “House Guests,” and will take place on Friday, August 23rd at Henry Art Gallery. Composers and sound artists Nat Evans and Chris Kallmyer will be creating sound works around everyday household tasks like cooking, gardening, cleaning, biking, and walking. These works will take place in the coming months in and around Seattle for small audiences of 10 to 100 people. In the fall, they’ll lead an expedition into the North Cascades to hunt for chanterelle mushrooms. When the mushrooms are found, a soup utilizing the foraged bounty will be made. Sound and musical works will accompany the soup-making as the participants observe and eat together.

These experiments in converting everyday activities into sonic and community-based events have been an ongoing dialogue of ideas and trial and error–  each artist bringing their own set of interests, skills, and ideas to re-shape the context through collaboration. For Rubber & Tin the flow of ideas for the group ride took a circular path.

Evans and Kallmyer initially conceived of the concept as a group experiential event and then moved on to prototyping instruments that participants could make and affix to their bikes. Some things came easily – jangly recycled items were easy enough for Nat to alter his bike, but making bells from old sink parts proved too troublesome and impractical to do with a group of people. Similarly, Chris made a Bike Flute, which has an excellent sound, but required the cyclist to travel exceedingly fast! Eventually, at the suggestion of Chris, they settled upon a few different categories of sound-devices.

spoke jangles

Category 1: Traditional
Baseball cards and clothes pins have been quintessential tools for kids interested in altering the sonic nature of their bicycles since the mid-20th century, and will be available for decoration and sonic alteration.

Category 2: Experimental
A myriad of different recycled and re-purposed metallic items will be available to create some different, basic sounds that are powered by their bicycle being in motion. Though some examples will be available, Nat and Chris are making this category one of potential – the potential for people to innovate given the right tools and materials.

Category 3: Kazoos
People will have them. We’ll use kazoos for different sound-based investigations along the route, and other sounding devices will be utilized by participants as well. These devices may or may not be cued by the appearance of bubbles.

After these categories were established the artists came back to the experiential aspect of the event – further fleshing out their concept with movement-and-mindfulness-derived group exercises to help shape the flow, perception and energy of the experience of Rubber & Tin. By re-contextualizing these every-day experiences, a greater sense of place and community is engendered, sounds and music are heard in new ways, and people are brought back to the moment.

Please join Nat Evans and Chris Kallmyer at 6 pm on Friday, August 23rd at the Henry for Rubber & Tin.  This event is FREE with museum admission and FREE to cyclists. Watch for other “House Guests” events in coming months!

For more information, please see the Henry website.

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