Symphony for Tail Pipe, Pistons and Valves In Two Wheel Major H-D

Michael Atherton is a music professor who, it appears, also appreciates the sound of a well-tuned carburetor and the symphony of metallic beauty which is a motorcycle at full-throat.

Atherton likes to include offbeat instruments in his compositions, and none of them (at least in my view)  more interesting than the motorcycle sounds which make up a major portion of the soundscape in his piece for the Powerhouse Discovery Centre’s anniversary in Sydney, Australia.

Click below to check out an interview with Atherton by Wolter Peeters:

Atherton said once, during a visit to a school for a music project a few years back, he crossed paths with a singer performing opera for children. When the man rode up on a motorcycle – then sang Puccini for the students –  Atherton  was struck dumb.

”I thought: isn’t it great he doesn’t hide the fact he enjoys a motorbike,” Atherton said. “He makes the two things connect.”

Photo: Wolter Peeters

That sealed the deal.

Atherton began a project which synthesizes orchestral music with the unique voce of  the Harley-Davidson motorcycle. A music professor and guest director at the Powerhouse Museum, Atherton led the orchestra in a rendition and debut of his Sonic Boom Boom!

He conducted an outdoor ensemble which included Mina Kanaridis of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, a rapper, a triad of drummers, a horn section and some percussion courtesy of a pile of automobile  hub caps.

”There’s a bit of a message there,” Atherton says. “Things can be connected that you don’t expect to connect. We should suspend judgments and disbelief and just see what it is, take it or leave it. ‘The mystique of the Harley-Davidson is a bit like the Ford utility in Australia. It’s your escape.”


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