The Sonic Divide is a new kind of performance art that explores musical events in specific natural settings, performed under radically different conditions than one normally experiences in the concert hall, documented for later viewing through film and audio recordings. The Sonic Divide is a unique adventure that combines creative music with ultra-distance mountain biking. I rode my mountain bike over 2,500 miles–mostly off-road–while periodically stopping to perform music specifically created for this event.
The Great Divide Mountain Biking Route spans the entire United States from the Canadian to the Mexican borders, approximately 2,500 miles. The Adventure Cycling Association mapped the route in the 1990s. Go HERE for specific information on this route, including a nice video.
The route always stays within a few miles of the spine of the continent—the Continental Divide—and traverses the states of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. As one rides along the Continental Divide one actually crosses over it 30 times between the two borders. I commissioned 30 composers to write pieces that I performed each time I crossed the Continental Divide. Each crossing is marked on the maps and when I reached one I stopped, dismounted my bike, and performed a piece. The Divide crossings are on mountaintops, in the desert, in the deep forest, and everywhere in between.
I carried lightweight video and audio recording devices and I recorded each performance. Combined with various interviews I have conducted with some of the composers and other athletes, I am now working on a film about the Sonic Divide. I wasn’t racing, but I put in some big days, riding as much as 130 miles in a single day (which is a lot for mountain biking, especially with a loaded bike and self-supported.) I ended up averaging about 85 miles per day. There was a LOT of climbing on this route.
It took me a little over a month, in June 2016. Except for two days when my wife joined me in Colorado to help with some filming, I rode totally self-supported, carrying all my own food, drink, tools, and camping gear, with stops in towns every few days to resupply.
The pieces are scored for my solo voice, or solo percussion with found percussion objects, or a combination of the two. I mostly performed for the birds and the trees in the wilderness, but on a few occasions I performed for people at iconic locations along the Divide (e.g., Toaster House in Pie Town, NM and Absolute Bikes in Salida, CO). Aside from the purely beautiful musical experiences and the athletic challenge, I view this event as a metaphor of rugged American individualism, a celebration of our potential and our place in this vast cosmos. Also, I was born and raised in Idaho, very close to a portion of the route, and I am eager to reconnect with that land. I spent my youth wandering the Rocky Mountains by foot, bike, and skis. My passion for creative music is undoubtedly related to my love of those wild, craggy peaks. The Sonic Divide was an incredible experience that forever changed me as a person and an artist.