Sprocket! A Scrap Metal Sextet by Composer Steven Snowden

Akropolis is joining forces with percussion….but this percussion instrument is a whole new animal. Composed by Steven SnowdenSprocket joins the reed quintet with a rideable percussion bicycle designed and fabricated by Detroit resident and Kresge Arts Fellow, Juan Martinez, and performed on by local experimental percussionist, Zac Brunell. This project will be the centerpiece of Akropolis’ 2019 Together We Sound festival in Detroit, MI and is made possible thanks to support from High Wire Lab, the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.



Like Juan’s other larger-than-life, rideable public art pieces, his percussion bike uses pedal power to create numerous sounds. As the percussionist pedals the bike (while fixed in place or not) a set of custom-designed and fitted levers and gears will create several effects that change depending on how fast the bike is pedaled. It’s been awesome to be working collaboratively with Juan, Steve, and Zac over the past year to determine what sounds the bike produces and how to incorporate them in Sprocket. Right now, the bike includes:

  1. An accordion fixed to the back of the bike with bellows which open and close as the bike is pedaled. The percussionist has access to the buttons on the front of the bike to change the pitches.
  2. Different-sized picks placed in the spokes that create sustained sounds of different volume, pitch, and character.
  3. Several attached, scrap metal objects sourced from Detroit, available to the percussionist to be played with a variety of mallets and sticks.

Having composed for unconventional metal materials previously, like shrapnel and car parts, Steve’s goal is to fuse industrial sounds familiar to Detroit with pedal-powered effects that mesh with Akropolis’ wind power. We’ve long admired Steve’s compositional storytelling abilities, and we can’t wait for him to extend his brilliance onto the reed quintet.


Sprocket is a mobile public art installation and musical experience that engages Detroit’s vibrant cycling community. It will be premiered as part of an outdoor concert on June 8th at the Dequindre Cut Freight Yard on Detroit’s east side during Akropolis’ 3rd annual Together We Sound Festival. Operated by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, the Freight Yard is a frequent gathering place of Detroit’s cyclists along the Dequindre Cut, an old rail line turned into an extensive bike path. It features food trucks, a bar, and ample seating. The public will be able to ride and play Juan’s percussion bicycle along with 2 more of his metal animal bicycles before and after the performance. We’ll be sharing more festival details and additional performance dates in the coming months!



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