John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Using a variety of electronics hooked up to his body, Brian House turned his daily bike route in New York into music.
House has been biking from Brooklyn to midtown Manhattan for six years, a journey he treasures so much that he's arranged it into a song called "Forty Eight to Sixteen." It's not the kind of tune you would want to jam out to during such a 7.5-mile workout, mind you. Logging in at 35 minutes, the anxious-sounding piece features slashes of repetitive string notes and what sounds like Dennis Hopper breathing through a gas mask in the background.
That last auditory feature is House's own inhalations as he huffed and puffed his way to work. The self-described bricoleur, who exhibited this piece at Chelsea's Eyebeam Art + Technology Center while serving as artist-in-residence, collected biometric details on his commute from heart-rate and breathing monitors, as well as a device to pick up the sound of his peddling. He then handed this raw data over to Topu Lyo, who interpreted each of the tree audio streams into one stacked slab of cello music. Finally, he tuned the composition to video recorded during his cross-borough slog.
House hopes to stage a live performance of "Forty Eight" with a musical trio, saying that "I think that would emphasize the physicality of the process." If you listen to the piece in its entirety and are wondering just how to process it, the artist has this recommendation: "go get on your bike."