This Cultural Olympiad story was produced in partnership with ArtsATL as part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here.
Composer Michael Torke has had a robust musical career, and one of his pieces was included in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics Opening Ceremony.
That piece is "Javelin," which was originally commissioned by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for their 50th anniversary in 1994. At the time of its commission, the symphony suggested that Torke write something that could be re-purposed for the Olympic Games.
Torke is synesthetic. For him, upon hearing certain sounds, he sees color. He has written several pieces about certain colors, and even “Javelin” tries to convey a certain physicality through the music.
“I had a picture in my head of a spear being thrown through the air, and in the music, you can hear phrases where the music lifts us and suspends and then it come down again,” he explained in an interview with Lois Reitzes.
Twenty-two years after completing “Javelin,” Torke feels like the piece was a success for the Atlanta Symphony and the Games.
“I wanted to write a piece about the feelings people might have around sportsmanship and athleticism,” said Torke. “If the music can inspire and is meant to inspire an athlete to go to their limit or transcend their limit, then I feel I succeeded.”