Bayou City

Buffalo Bayou Offers Its Own Soundtrack Thanks To ROCO

The sounds of nature, and now classical music, fill Buffalo Bayou's pedestrian space thanks to ROCO.
The sounds of nature, and now classical music, fill Buffalo Bayou's pedestrian space thanks to ROCO. Photo by Katya Horner
Get ready to boogie on the bayou — or at least walk, jog or bike to the rhythm of classical music. ROCO has joined forces with Buffalo Bayou Partnership to provide a new experience along its banks. With "ROCO on Buffalo Bayou," visitors can explore miles of trails lining the bayou to discover and scan QR codes posted at landmarks and public art works. Simply hover over each code with a camera app activated, and a link will appear. The link leads to a specific piece of music performed by ROCO, specially selected for each location or art installation and curated by the ROCO team.

"As soon as I heard about this idea, I knew it was perfect for us because it aligns with our mission to connect people with our parks, green spaces and the waterfront," said Karen Farber, vice president of external affairs for Buffalo Bayou Partnership. "It provides us with a completely new way of traversing the landscape. I love the idea that when visitors are walking or biking, they can listen to ROCO's playlist and have a sensory experience."

The music selections, associated with 40 trail stops highlighting the bayou’s landmarks and public art, invite visitors to spend time outdoors and participate in a musical scavenger hunt. Visitors can access the music while enjoying the 10-square mile stretch maintained by Buffalo Bayou Partnership.

Some of the works include "Flying Sirto" by Erberk Eryilmaz at the Waugh Bat Bridge, Brad Sayles' "Buffalo Bayou Suite" near John Runnels's steel canoe sculptures, Alexander Miller’s ROCOmoji (a Concerto Grosso for Double Reeds) second movement, titled "OMG", at the Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark, Alejandro Basulto’s "Tríptico de Luz" at the Hidalgo Park Historic Gazebo and Shostakovich's "Ballet Suite" at the Sesquicentennial Park Monument honoring James A. Baker III, who helped oversee foreign policy at the end of the Cold War.


In a time when people are looking for activities outdoors in effort to mitigate the coronavirus, "ROCO on Buffalo Bayou" is a family-friendly, socially distanced activity for either a solitary or collective experience. People can pick which spot they want to visit based on its assigned music or simply go on a scavenger hunt type exploration of Buffalo Bayou. Be sure to keep those eyes peeled, because the signs are small and might be easily missed.
click to enlarge Hot dogs and cool cats should keep an eye out for these little signs that dot Buffalo Bayou's pedestrian space. - PHOTO BY SAM BYRD
Hot dogs and cool cats should keep an eye out for these little signs that dot Buffalo Bayou's pedestrian space.
Photo by Sam Byrd
"Our number one value is access...To invite people into our world. The idea that we can continue to weave music throughout the city of Houston is very exciting. This project gives access in a way where there is no barrier. You just need a phone. We’re doing the best we can to make music free and as easy as possible to access," said Alecia Lawyer, ROCO's founder.

ROCO is no stranger to providing accessible music — anytime and anywhere. Its past performances are archived on its website as well as on its YouTube channel, free for anyone to peruse. The group is also versed in bringing music to the city's unique spaces like the Holocaust Museum Houston, MECA Houston, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and Saint Arnold Brewing Company.

The project was made easy to accomplish thanks to the longstanding friendship between Farber and Lawyer. Like Lawyer, Farber's history is steeped in the arts. Before joining Buffalo Bayou Partnership this year, she helmed the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, where she was instrumental in creating CounterCurrent, an annual festival of live performances, installations, talks and participatory events by artists from throughout the world. She has served as a consultant, panelist and board member for many local and national cultural organizations, and from 2002-2003 she was an arts management fellow at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

Buffalo Bayou's other recent adventures into the arts took place during Buffalo Bayou Park's fifth anniversary in October, including performances by Houston Grand Opera, Urban Souls Dance Company and Da Camera as well as a month-long installation by Urban Yarnage on the Rosemont Bridge. Currently, the bayou houses the larger-than-life shapes of Estructuras Monumentales, an exhibition of outdoor sculptures by the 105-year-old, New York-based artist Carmen Herrera.
"ROCO on Buffalo Bayou" is scheduled to run through December and is located at various spots along Buffalo Bayou. For more information, visit BuffaloBayou.org or ROCO.org. Free.
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Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to the Houston Press who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture.
Contact: Sam Byrd