Atchley uses temporary water fountains as sound-sources and uses analogue electronic instruments and laptops to create his works. Other important factors in his art include sculptures, and environmental and metaphorical elements. Atchley's music and live performances have been featured at various venues and festivals including The Kitchen, Bang on a Can, and the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival.
In September 1982, Atchley took part in a joint concert called the Rota-League Concert when the League of Automated Music Composers joined forces with an electronic-music band called The Rotary Club.
Atchley worked with choreographer Roseanne Spradlin in 2003 to create Rearrangement (or a Spell for Mortals) as a duet for Walter Dundervill and Athena Malloy. According to the New York Times, the piece "sounds like running water" and "the dancers explore issues of mortality in an appropriately enigmatic setting".
In winter 2006-2007 he composed a set of works for strings. The pieces, collectively titled 7 stillnesses, exploit a range of avant-garde harmonic progressions with emphasis on passages in which a chord is held long enough that its value within the harmonic progression disappears. The title refers not to a determinable number of "stillnesses"; more to the mythic use of number to refer to subjective experiences of stillness and quietude. The writing extends techniques that Atchley developed in his electronic work. In this composition the combined harmonics of an ensemble of string instruments create pared down, absorbing, tonal sound-planes.
In 2009, Atchley performed concert versions of turtle. The primary sound of this work is generated by six sine wave tones in the frequency range from 261.63 Hz and 440.00 Hz. Attending video landscapes are generated by defining and displaying sets of points within a single, germinal image.
Atchley has released several CDs of solo, electro-acoustic-noise works including fountains (published by Auscultare Research). He has also worked closely with other artists to create joint projects such as Sealed Cantus with John Bischoff (released on Bischoff's 23Five CD Aperture). He has also written an opera called Edison's Last Project(ION) and choral works including Lumiere de Main. The libretto and lyrics of these were published in the book Guests go in to Supper.
- fountains Auscultare Research (2002)
- anon (2010). "Meridian Music: Composers in Performance presents John Bischoff & Kenneth Atchley". Retrieved 10 January 2010.
- Bischoff, John; Various (2005). "The League of Automated Music Composers". In Annmarie Chandler and Norie Neumark. At a distance: precursors to art and activism on the Internet. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. p. 380. ISBN 0-262-03328-3. Retrieved January 2010.
- Kourlas, Gia (November 2, 2003). "DANCE; Roseanne Spradlin Gives Sex a Realistic Crash and Jiggle". New York Times. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
- Hart, Otis (May 14, 2002). "Dusted Reviews". Dusted Magazine. Retrieved 11 January 2010.
- Various (December 1986). Melody Sumner, Kathleen Burch, Michael Sumner, Melody Sumner Carnahan and Sumner Carnahan, ed. Guests Go in to Supper. Burning Books. ISBN 978-0-936050-05-8.
- Official website
- Golden, Barbara. “Conversation with Kenneth Atchley.” eContact! 12.2 — Interviews (2) (April 2010). Montréal: CEC.