Professor Challenges Art and Endurance with Sonic Divide

Music professor Payton MacDonald will bike 2,500 miles from Mexico to Canada and performs 30 new original compositions along the route

Professor Payton MacDonald

Music professor Payton MacDonald will combine his passions for creative music and ultra-distance mountain biking this summer when he bikes the U.S. Great Divide Mountain Biking Route from Mexico to Canada, and performs 30 new original compositions along the route for a project he calls Sonic Divide.

MacDonald, who sets off in June, has commissioned 30 original compositions from 30 composers, including William Paterson faculty members Peter Jarvis, John Link, Tim Newman, Kevin Norton, Anton Vishio, and David Weisberg. He will perform and document one composition each time he crosses the Continental Divide during the self-supported 2,500-mile journey.

A percussionist and singer, MacDonald will use his voice, a pair of lightweight mallets, and surrounding found objects to perform the compositions throughout his 25- to 30-day adventure; he plans to audio and video record the music and ambient environmental echoes for a later CD release. “These are some of the most beautiful pieces I’ve ever experienced in my life,” MacDonald notes. “And I cannot wait to get out and perform them in some of the world’s most gorgeous natural settings.”

MacDonald will climb more than 200,000 vertical feet, traversing mountaintops, deserts, forests, and off-road terrains (90 percent of the route is off-road) to physically and artistically accomplish the feat. He will carry his own food, water, tools, and camping gear. “I view this event as a metaphor of rugged American individualism, a celebration of our potential and our place in the vast cosmos,” he says.

To learn more about Payton MacDonald's journey, visit