Saturday, September 11, 2021

Somerville Composer Reynaliz Herrera : Using Bikes as Percussion Instruments

I caught up with Somerville composer Reynaliz Herrera--who uses very unconventional objects as instruments.

You are originally from Mexico. How has Somerville been for your life
as an artist?

I've lived in Boston for 11 years now, and lived specifically in Somerville on and off for the past years. I love how Somerville is so mindful and supportive of its artists, I feel like there are a lot of opportunities for artists in this area (festivals, events, grants, etc) and I like that the scene here is also very supportive of "quirky art", and art that doesn't necessarily fit a particular genre. We need that!

Your project at the Growing Center in Somerville explores 'music for bikes.'  I can recall that Gershwin used taxi horns for his composition " Rhapsody in Blue." There is a symphony of sounds in the urban environs. Are you going along a similar track?

In a way! I wasn't particularly inspired by Gershwin, but yeah I would say that especially at the beginning of my exploration with bicycles as instruments and when I started writing music for bicycles (9 years ago) I was inspired by the sounds of the city. I also was inspired by John Cage and his philosophies about music.  I was inspired by the idea of using anything as an instrument and exploring that instrument to the max. I want to treat these types of instruments (unconventional percussion and bicycles) as seriously as you would treat a violin.

The Bike will be an actual percussion instrument, right?

Yes!... In my new piece/program "BIKEncerto: a concerto for solo bicycle and orchestra" I feature the bicycle as a percussion instrument. In this new piece I aimed to push myself to explore the bike to even more detailed, nuanced heigths. I feature the bike in different ways: the full bicycle, a "Tires Keyboard" that I created, and melodic spokes where I wrote and play actual melodic music!.

Why do you explore such unconventional instrument possibilities? Do
you think the drum conveys more than a bike?

Because it's fun! Traditional instruments are great, but I like to explore new possibilities. Between the more traditional drum (let's say a snare drum) and the bicycle I would say they just offer different possibilities and opportunities.

Was there a musician or school of music that inspired you?

Yes, especially in my school years I felt really inspired by John Cage and his ideas about music and art, also Evelyn Glennie (percussionist) inspired me to find my own path and my own voice as an artist. My parents (who are also artists) and my former teachers (Ian Bernard, Bob Becker, Noel Savon, Jose Garza, Sam Solomon and Keith Aleo) have also inspired me.

You have a full play that consists of your bike music. It is titled "
Ideas, not Theories". Intriguing title, please explain...

Yes, through "Ideas, Not Theories"  is my theatrical percussion company, I perform several original programs featuring the bicycle as an instrument in different ways, one of them is "Ideas, Not Theories- Full Staged Show" which is the theatrical play. In regards to the title: At the time that I started "Ideas, Not Theories" and wrote my first program, I wanted to convey a sense of playfulness and creative liberty, opposed to tradition and strictness. I was tired of the strictness I felt playing mostly classical percussion, and wanted to feel a sense of liberty and freshness. "Ideas" (in this case) mean "openness to possibility" and "Theories" mean something more fixed and strict.
What other unconventional instruments do you hope to explore in the future?

So far I've explored bicycles, water, sprayers, tap and body percussion, brushes, bridges, a boat, etc. I usually like to get obsessed with one unconventional instrument and explore it to the max (Like the bicycle, which I've already written 4 different programs for this instrument!). I guess after I get tired of the bikes I would like to explore my water music even further. During the COVID lockdown I wrote and recorded an "impromptu" piece for snow that I haven't shown anyone yet, I plan to upload that online sometime soon, and I'm definitely curious about exploring ice/snow more...

For more information:

WHAT: premiere of "BIKEncerto: a concerto for solo bicycle and orchestra" by Reynaliz Herrera.
(For the performances, Reynaliz Herrera will be joined by the "Ideas, Not Theories Orchestra" partly comprised of Somerville-based performers, and conductor Amelia Hollander Ames.)
WHERE: The Somerville Community Growing Center

(22 Vinal Ave, Somerville, MA 02143)
WHEN: September 18th (3pm & 6pm), and September 19th (3pm).

*Rain date: September 26th (2pm & 5pm).

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