Thursday, January 19, 2017


Adelaide’s annual international cycling event, the Tour Down Under, regularly provides me with the chance to play with my parallel passions of creativity and cycling. I developed my Pedal Powered Percussion Contraption as a contribution towards a stage finish event and I see it as the beginning of a suite of similar outcomes and potentials. 

Bike Powered Percussion Contraption from James Dodd on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


I arrived at the point of developing my own noise making contraption somewhat organically, via a series of related pedally projects that became noisey and invited discussions of pursuing outcomes that are specifically noisey.  As is often the case, I am curious about trying to build projects that invite public intervention and interaction. As always, there a number of creative endeavours that I have seen other people execute over time that have parallels with or influence my own ideas.  Some of these I am more particularly connected with, and some of them have been brought to my attention via discussions with others.  I‘d like to take this opportunity to tip my hat to a few creatives who turn me on and to introduce some great art to others.

Perhaps the closest parallel comes courtesy of legendary Australian left-field composer, Jon Rose.  Most known for his playing of fences in which he takes a string bow to outback fence lines, Rose has a broader body of work that embraces a range of violin variations and wacky wavelengths.

In particular, he was commissioned to create a cycling symphony of sorts to coincide with Canberra’s centenarian celebrations in 2013.  He teamed up with inimitable Oz Rat Patrol (perhaps better introduced as a more recent incarnation as Canberra Bike Party ( tp create 100 different bike driven instruments.  These were subsequently choreographed and composed into a live performance.  Check out the Canberra Pursuit below-

I first encountered Lucas Abela in a sweaty, seedy Newcastle pub as part of a ‘This is not Art’ festival ( more than a decade ago.  Suffice to say it was an evening of high spirits and alternate realities into which was tipped this screaming wildman who appeared to be hooked up to a life support amplifier that made him bleed rather than assisting his health.  I had walked into a den of vibrating noise, flying spittle and blood.  That moment will be forever etched (or incised) into my psyche.

Somewhat of a creative genius, Lucas Abela has gone on to pursue a range of complex, technical, dynamic and poetic sound producing devices.  These often function via layers of noise altering effects that are variously triggered by actions of audiences.  A large number of these use the commonly understood mode of a pinball machine as an interface for the general public to both make and experience outcomes.

One of my favourites is his pentagram shaped pinny, Balls for Cthulu, that features a suite of electric guitar necks as the bumper edges of play.  You can see this one and a bunch of other wonderful variants in the video below, from a presentation at Palais de Tokyo titled Temple of Din, in 2015.
Another work that particularly twangs at my heartstrings is the regionally tuned
Gamelan Wizard, a collaboration with a number of Yogyakarta’s gamelan masters, presented at MOFO festival, Hobart, 2015.  
This is quite a recent heads-up from a muso buddy.  The term intonarumori describes a particular type of instrument created by Italian futurist Luigi Russolo.  The Futurists were a bunch of artists of all flavours, working early in the twentieth century who witnessed technological developments such as the car and the aeroplane that changed the shape of humanity forever.  Luigi and his buddies latched onto the significance of these moments and wrote manifestos and made art that particularly emphasized what they saw as new understandings of speed, technology, youth and violence. 

In this particular instance, Luigi was keen to make an instrument that he thought would imitate or imply a sense of the industrial city that he was immersed in.  He made the instruments in a variety of forms and even wrote a specific manifesto called Art of Noises (manifestos really were much cooler back in the old days).  Since his time, many others have looked back upon Russolo’s work, recreating their own take on the instrument and it’s potential.

Here’s a tasty little of vid of the legendary Mike Patton dipping his tow in the intonarumori pool.

Maybe I’ll have a chance to build some pedal powered versions of these in the future?  Big ones…  Makes sense to me…

Sunday, January 1, 2017


Jimmy Dodd, Pedal Powered Chocolate Wheel, 2016 from James Dodd on Vimeo.

This project was initiated by a radio station who were keen to develop something for a promotion together with the Tour Down Under.  They already had a thing called a Randomiser which is used to select random songs and wondered whether there might be a way to translate this into some kind of pedally outcome.  They were keen on the 'chocolate wheel' style which is like a wheel of fortune / spinner disc with a little clicker that eventually stops on a particular segment.  It was a project that I was keen on and was able to apply some existing knowledge to as well as explore some new trickery.  Here's a few shots of some of the process and nerdy bits.

First loose physical mock-up for client - also testing general overall size as the finished machine needed to fit into a specific space.
A bit more progress with the frame and support so that the bike is stationary and not touching the ground.  Features extra heavy duty sissy bar to be strong enough for full grown adults and frame extension on the front to accept a rear wheel.
Final assembly and all moving parts testing before finishing.

 It was nice to work on a job with a decent budget, allowing me to have everything powder coated.

I've been practicing a lot more design for laser cut outcomes over the last few months.  This is a pic that shows all of the construction lines with all of the various parts layered up with all of their intersecting fixing points.  This build had a bunch of laser cut bits to facilitate a main MDF disc that was painted up and all of the divisions and fixings for the perspex face that has slots for various tickets to be put in and out.  I also had a number of alloy discs made that allowed me to fit to the pre-existing parts on the axle and discs to mount a chainring for driving everything.  I used a go-kart axle kit for this job that came with pillow block bearings, hubs and axle mounts that became adapted to fix to the bike parts that I wanted to use. The design process allowed me to achieve quite accurate PCD variations - ie - the mounting disc for the drive needed a PCD bolt pattern to match the chainring and then another to mount to the pattern on the go-kart hub.

Here's a couple of shots of testing variations in the chain rings and spacer set up.

 I also used extra multiples of the same disc to make a basic brake for the wheel.  It doesn't really need a brake but I thought it would make a reassuring safety component.