A cutting-edge group of Berlin musicians have employed an unconventional instrument to add spunk to their signature sound. Ekkehard Windrich, a violinist with the group Kammerensemble Neue Musik (KNM) Berlin, impressed a New York audience last month when he strummed the spokes of a bicycle wheel with all the beauty and grace of a harpist. Windrich opened the concert by accompanying contemporary classics, like composer Stefan Bartling’s “Mit Namen” and “Randnotiz,” with the spinning bicycle wheel.
KNM’s 11-member ensemble was founded in the late 1980s by students from the Hanns Eisler College of Music. The group is known for its “HouseMusik” performances in private apartments, offices, shops, and cafés, and for its avant-garde style, sound installations, and sampling.
KNM’s Windrich isn’t the first musician to discover the lyrical beauty of the bicycle. There was the group Queen, of course, which famously sang a ballad to the bike in Bicycle Race (“I want to ride my bicycle”). So-called “wheel music” has been around since bikes were first popularized, used in experimental music as a percussion instrument. The bike wheel is being used by other innovative musicians, a well—like Meredith Monk and Adam Matta, who creates beautiful music with his bicycle and a beatbox.
YouTube video, beatbox and bicycle wheel, Adam Matta: