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Sprocket: A scrap metal sextet composed by Steve Snowden for reed quintet & rideable percussion bicycle

Metal fabricator Juan Martinez builds pedal-powered musical machine, connecting Akropolis with Detroit’s cycling community.

The Latest Update

Performance video + more Sprocket performances with more fabulous percussionists!

Posted on December 11, 2019 by Akropolis Reed Quintet

Hi Everyone! As promised, here’s the “traditional” percussion version of Sprocket. This allows us to perform Sprocket places where the bike can’t easily go! This performance was with percussionist Sam Solomon at the Mostly Modern Festival this past summer. We also performed Sprocket with Jeff Stern of the icarus Quartet on the Oneppo Series at Yale University this past October. Upcoming, we’ll perform Sprocket with Chris Sies of Latitude 49 on the San Antonio Chamber Music Society in January, 2020! 

Finally, we’re working on touring performances of Sprocket, featuring the bike itself and the man who built it, Juan Martinez, for summer 2020. More news on that soon! 

Thanks everyone for following!

More Updates ▼

Dequindre Cut Outdoor Performance of Sprocket

Posted on August 8, 2019 by Akropolis Reed Quintet

Here is a video of our outdoor performance of Sprocket at the Dequindre Cut Freight Yard in Detroit, co-presented by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, and co-promoted by Detroit Greenways Coalition and featuring Zac Bru performing on the bike. Juan Martinez, builder of the percussion bike, also brought other sheet metal animal bikes for audience members to ride before and after our performance of Sprocket. The audio in this video is from the indoor world premiere performance of Sprocket at Kerrytown Concert House. 

“Traditional” percussion adaptation of Sprocket

Posted on July 25, 2019 by Akropolis Reed Quintet

We were thrilled to perform Sprocket in Saratoga Springs for the Mostly Modern Festival, utilizing a version of Sprocket for “traditional” percussion instruments, with guest percussionist, Sam Solomon. Here is a picture of Sam’s percussion setup. The idea with this version is to allow Sprocket to be performed anywhere, especially when the bicycle percussion instrument cannot be made available. We will have video of both versions of the piece posted very soon! Photos by Timothy Lee Miller and courtesy of Mostly Modern Festival. 

3 Premiere Performances Complete!

Posted on July 3, 2019 by Akropolis Reed Quintet

This project was a joy, especially to work with a non-music artist like Juan, to absorb his ideas and solve problems with him. We have audio and video from all 3 performances, which took place at Wasserman Projects on June 6, Kerrytown Concert House on June 7, and Dequindre Cut Freight Yard on June 8. We had great audiences at each concert, all whom were not only in awe of the percussion bicycle, but got a chance to ride it! We will post audio, video, and more photos in the coming days! The new work for Akropolis and the bike, Sprocket, is an incredibly creative, exciting, and enjoyable piece of music by Steven Snowden. We’ve already had the fortune of performing it outside Detroit, in Saratoga Springs, NY, as part of the Mostly Modern Festival! 


A new work for the Akropolis Reed Quintet composed by Steven Snowden, Sprocket joins reed quintet and 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.


Like Juan’s other larger-than-life, rideable public art pieces, his percussion bike will use pedal power to create numerous sounds while having three wheels for stability. 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. Juan and Steven will work collaboratively alongside Akropolis and Zac to determine what sounds the bike produces and how to incorporate them in Sprocket. The bike will include, at least:

  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.


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.

In addition to the Conservancy, we’re partnering with two neighborhood organizations in order to promote the event to Detroit’s 70+ bike clubs and thousands of diverse cyclists: 1. Detroit Greenways, whose goal is to make Detroit a world-class biking city for bikers of all stripe, and 2. “Slow Roll Detroit,” one of the world’s largest weekly bike rides where thousands of bikers flood the streets on a different route each week. Our concert will also be advertised to the general public as a stroll-up event for Detroiters both familiar and new to the cycling community.

A second premiere performance will take place indoors at the Cube at Orchestra Hall on June 6th. Like the Freight Yard performance, the audience will be able to interact with and ride and play Juan’s percussion bike following the performance.

Project Media

Juan Martinez – Metal Fabricator, Bicycle Artist
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Features: Juan Martinez

Filmed in 2018, this video shows examples of Juan’s work on bicycles, his metal fabrication talent, and the spirit with which he inspires community members in Detroit. The video shows his shop in Detroit and his work in a Detroit neighborhood.

“A Man With a Gun Lives Here” by Steve Snowden
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Features: Steven Snowden

Cue the video to 7:00.

In this excerpt of “A Man with a Gun Lives Here,” composed by Steven Snowden and performed by line upon line, the performers pass around a paper bag containing 3 lbs of loose buckshot, which is then slashed open, spilling onto the drum. Steve often creates narratives in his music, this one describing symbols used by hobos during the Great Depression. This piece is an example of his creative and expert use of percussion, including unusual objects.

Akropolis + BodyVox Dance Perform “Four-Letter-Word”
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Cue the video to 5:45.

Akropolis performs “Four-Letter-Word” by heart with choreography by the performers of BodyVox Dance, in Portland, OR, in summer 2015. This video is an example of Akropolis’ collaborative spirit, our commitment to the overall impact of our performances, and our desire to bring chamber music excellence to audiences in new ways.

Start and End Dates



Detroit, Michigan

4 updates
Last update on December 11, 2019

Project Created By

Detroit, Michigan
Hailed for their “imagination, infallible musicality, and huge vitality” (Fanfare Magazine), Akropolis was founded in 2009 at the University of Michigan and has won seven national chamber music prizes since 2011, including the 2014 Fischoff Gold Medal and the 2015 Fischoff Educator Award. Akropolis is an alumnus of APAP’s prestigious Young Performer’s Career Advancement Program…

In Collaboration With

Boston, Massachusetts
Detroit, Michigan
Community Organizing Partner
Community Organizing Partner
Detroit, Michigan
Metal Fabricator


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