I wrote a letter to some local musicians asking if they'd like to contribute some recordings to play on the vehicle. The letter (in general) is as follows:
I've probably mentioned it before, but here's some more detail: I'm building an art project for Burning Man (http://burningman.com) this year that's called The Bike With 2 Brains (http://jasondoesitall.com/bikewith2brains). Basically, it's a two-person vehicle where each of two riders pedals a unicycle wheel in front of them. Steering is accomplished differentially: to go straight, both riders need to pedal at the same rate; to go right, the left rider needs to pedal faster, etc. The back wheels caster-swivel, so that's the way to control it. I'm designing a lighting system and a sound system for it as well, and I'm looking for musicians who want to submit a piece to be included as part of what the sound system plays.
I apologize for the long e-mail … most of this is the same as what I'm sending to everyone else. I want to personalize each letter, so this paragraph is especially for you, [Recipient]! (har har.)
Also, if you're available, I'll hopefully have the frame built by June 11 and have it set up as part of the ARTWalk "Muse-A-Thon" that day from 10 a.m. to noon (I think.)
Anyway, to fill in a little more background about Burning Man, the setting is Black Rock Desert, Nevada for one week at the end of August. Essentially, Black Rock Desert is one big, flat, dry, windy, ancient lake-bed. Temperatures typically range from about 40 degrees at night to around 110 in the day. One of the two closest towns is Empire which is the home of U.S. Gypsum who make drywall: the wind blows a fine alkaline dust just like drywall dust. There is no vegetation at all and, relatedly, no indigenous animal life either.
Much of the activity as at night. As I mentioned, this year is a new moon, so at night, it will be pitch black, revealing more stars and galaxies in the sky than you can hope to count in ten lifetimes. There are very few formal rules, so it's a true test of anarchy. Despite there being around 35,000 people this year, it's easy to find yourself alone: the encouraged standard is laissez faire, so while you're free to do whatever you please, the flip-side of that apathy is that there's nothing you can do to "be interesting" — you are simply yourself. Also, there is no commerce allowed: the prevalent philosophy is a gift economy wherein you are allowed to give things to other people — however, there is no obligation to give anything away as in communism, so you've got to play nice with others.
My project will be one that anyone can ride, so I need to get people interested enough to ride it on their own. This is where you come in.
I'm looking for musicians to compose music for the vehicle. Thematically, I'm simply looking for sound to attract people and entice them to stay. The nature of the vehicle and the interaction of the riders will involve synchronized motion (FYI, bicycle pedaling is typically comfortable between about 40 and 90 rotations-per-minute) as well as agreement, teaching, learning, dialog, conflict, and argument. Feel free to interpret at will.
I plan on including a track of my own that I'm tentatively titling "New England Dusk." It'll be some combination of simulation and edited outdoor recording of the sounds of dusk around here … rather, the version of dusk _I_ remember … spring peepers, crickets, blackbirds, crows, and probably some cicadas. I figure it'll seem familiar yet wildly out-of-place at the event.
The only formal limitation I'm placing on content is that it include no lyrics: that is, instrumentals, or non-intelligible vocalizations are okay, but I don't want the songs to tell a story in words. I'm asking about 7 people to submit a piece and I've got 60 minutes total, so while any length piece is appreciated, a 50-minute masterpiece might not be included. I'm going to be using an MP3 player and I'll do my best to maintain pristine fidelity, but the format is limited. Also, the final output will be _monophonic_ so differences between stereo channels will be completely lost. Finally, keep in mind that the sound system will have limited capability to reproduce low frequencies and it won't go very loud (typically around 1 watt [which is louder than you'd think.]) I'm using car-stereo speakers, so as a reference, fidelity will be similar to a good quality boombox.
I had originally wanted to synchronize each song to a particular light pattern, but I decided to drop the idea because it would be too hard to do with the parts I'm working with and because it's a nightmare of organization: setting deadlines and making sure I have time to compose a light show — yuck. Thus, my absolute deadline for getting music in place on the vehicle is sometime in late August. However, I'd appreciate it if you can get back to me with something by early July through August 1 (at the latest) … adjust as necessary to fit your own procrastination scheduling.
Please let me know if you'd like to help out or if you've got any questions.
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I bought a Digisette Duo-MP3 from eBay. It has 32 MB of on-board flash RAM. Experimentation demonstrated that the player will handle monophonic, variable bit-rate recordings and output "acceptable" fidelity at 56 kilobits per second yielding over an hour of play time. The player supports mechanically-actuated forward, reverse, stop, volume-up, and volume-down buttons. These buttons appear to be able to be emulated using solid-state hardware and wired into the circuitry of the player without difficulty.
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