a participatory event for moving bicycle bells

2014; ~45 minutes

An excerpt from the premiere performance of Wheels, Dec. 21, 2014 in Prospect Park as part of Make Music Winter.

Wheels gathers seasoned and casual cyclists to perform a piece for bicycle bells by composer Nissim Schaul.

Riders travel in groups following a score transmitted from the lead bike using a special helmet embedded with lights (created by Merche Blasco), which cues bicycle bells of different pitches. The groups will come together and split up, performing music that is at once stand-alone and complementary, creating concentric circles of sound and echo.

excerpts from a web interview with Make Music New York:

What inspired you to write music for bicycle bells?

I heard about Mercheís parade last year, and I said to myself, this is almost everything I love all in one package: bicycles, music, bells in New York City (I have a long-standing fascination with the Salvation Army Santas), an unusual setting, and things that are inherently impossible to predict. Itís the perfect project for me.

Weíll assume youíre a pretty serious cyclist if youíre interested in biking around in the snow. Whatís your favorite thing about bicycles?

Well, actuallyÖ I didnít learn to ride a bike until about ten years ago, when I was in my mid-20ís.

And Iím really hoping it doesnít snow!

I think I have a convertís zeal when it comes to biking. I didnít ride a bike regularly until the middle of 2011. But ever since I got up the courage to ride through the Parisian streets before 10pm, Vťlibí (the rental bike program here) has been my primary means of transportation.

Iím so new to cycling that, whenever I get on a bike, it still feels like Iím flying. Thatís my favorite thing about them! I hope that feeling never goes away.

...[One of the things] Iíve struggled with is who the ďaudienceĒ of Wheels is, and in the end, I think it has to be the participant cyclists themselves. I have to think about what will make them happy, what will keep their interest, because they will be experiencing the piece the most consistently, for the longest time. But that doesnít mean that average park-goers arenít a part of the piece. From the very beginning, what Iíve wanted more than anything is to turn Prospect Park into a magical place, full of fairy bells. I hope that Wheels makes the park an even more special place than it already is, that the sound of (quasi-)coordinated bells EVERYWHERE transports people outside of their ordinary lives, even for just a moment as the slow-motion peloton rides up and passes. Thatís why I also hope people will come wearing lots of lightĖvisual magic will add to the musical magic.

Wheels was created for Make Music Winter 2014, at which it was presented by Make Music New York, the Prospect Park Alliance, and the LeFrak Center at Lakeside.

Further Performances

If you are interested in bringing Wheels to your town, contact Nissim.


  • December 21, 2014: World permiere in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, at Make Music New York's Make Music Winter festival.
Contact Nissim Schaul