Press from Perth

TodInPerthCatch up on what Tod Machover has been doing in Perth in this article from  The Western Australian. He describes some of the unique nature sounds he has been hearing and talks about an ongoing workshop with school children who are using Hyperscore software to transcribe the sounds of their city into music. Although his recent projects have been described as “crowdsourced symphonies”, he explains that his approach is more of a back-and-forth collaboration than a one-way sourcing of material:

“I enjoy thinking about a big idea and bringing together a group of people, some prominent artists, some students, and to treat everyone as equal. Then to present an idea and just say ‘Let’s look at it together’.”

He says all too often social media is used as a form of marketing by established artists. “Which is fine but it kind of goes one way. It’s easy to follow what somebody prominent is doing but if you want to have a real dialogue it’s probably not going to happen. I’m more interested in a model where everybody gets stimulated somehow and the whole level gets raised for everyone.”

Read the full article here.

Sweden’s LOFT on A Toronto Symphony

The current issue of LOFT, the Scandinavian “bookazine” devoted to design, culture and creativity, features a lengthy interview and photographs documenting the “A Toronto Symphony” project. You can preview it here.

Toronto kids who participated in "A Toronto Symphony". Photo from LOFT.

Toronto kids who participated in “A Toronto Symphony”. Photo from LOFT.

“A Toronto Symphony” makes its debut

Saturday evening saw the successful debut of Tod Machover’s “A Toronto Symphony”, described aptly by conductor Peter Oundjian in this BBC News interview as “the most collaborative piece of music that has ever been written.” Nearly a year in the making, the new work was commissioned by the Toronto Symphony for its New Creations Festival. Scored for a full symphony orchestra, the half-hour-long piece involved thousands of citizens of Toronto who contributed acoustic samples, compositions, and manipulated parts of the work-in-progress using apps developed by the Opera of the Future group at the M.I.T. Media Lab.

You can see footage of some of the collaborative activities as well as hear parts of the world premiere performance in the BBC News video here: Tod Machover: composer’s social media symphony for Toronto.

Toronto Kids Score!

Several hundred school children in Toronto have been giving their Hyperscore programs a good workout, composing music about their city for composer Tod Machover’s collaborative “A Toronto Symphony” project.  Some of it may end up in the new work, to be premiered in March 2013 by the Toronto Symphony. Take a listen to some of the kids’ compositions here.

HyperscorePieces-Kids

Celebrating the spirit of Glenn Gould

Reposted from A Toronto Symphony

This weekend, Tod will join 50 other presenters (from Robert Wilson to Atom Egoyan to Lang Lang!) at the University of Toronto’s Convocation Hall for an extraordinary gathering of “Dreamers Renegades Visionaries” to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the iconoclastic pianist and boundary breaker’s birth. Check out this terrific article about the event in Whole Note (“Spinning Gould – 30 years after”).

Tod is scheduled to speak and perform at 5pm on Saturday, the 22nd. He posted this photo on Facebook this morning and gave a hint about what he’ll be presenting:

Here is my cello resting this morning in our barn outside of Boston, preparing to travel to Toronto tomorrow for the big Gould event. I’ll be playing the solo cello (something I don’t do often these days, but am happy to do to pay homage to Gould) to “shed a light” on – and make connections between – shards of music hidden in hundreds of sound images sent from Toronto as part of my A Toronto Symphony project …I promise it will be unusual:)

Listen to this teaser from Tod’s montage of sounds of Toronto -

LOFT Interview with Tod Machover

The current issue of the Swedish design journal LOFT carries a lavishly illustrated interview with composer Tod Machover. The interview focuses on the creative process and covers a lot of ground, from early childhood experiences with music to the ongoing project to compose a Concerto for Composer and City that calls upon the residents of Toronto to participate actively.

The other thing which I always tell my students, because I have learned this myself from experience, is that a good teacher does not necessarily provide you with a single strategy or approach to solving problems creatively. Probably the best composition teacher I ever had – the one whose thoughts still resonate in my own mind fairly frequently – is the one who had the least methodology or underlying theory to his commentary. In fact, I had to learn how to ask him questions to understand the connecting theories behind his reactions. But he also told me to look with a fresh eye and ear at each new problem, and to have multiple strategies at hand to address any situation that came up. It is this flexibility and repertoire of complementary techniques that allows us to find the most fruitful path, to steer around ruts, and to proceed whenever we do get stuck. In this way, each of us needs to develop a very good intuition about what methodology is going to work for you, right now – this year, this week, this day, this hour.

Any guesses as to who that teacher was?

View the full article “A dialog with composer Tod Machover” (pdf)

Prelude to Toronto – Crowdsourced piano improv

Image: Lisa Grossman

Last week’s experiment at the MIT Media Lab tested out a new system to allow the listening public to express musical preferences to a pianist who responded in real time. Tae Kim’s tour de force of improvisation drew a highly engaged crowd both at the Media Lab and online, as well as some media attention. This story just appeared in New Scientist and describes the scene:

Kim, a graduate of the New England Conservatory, had been playing the piano in the MIT Media Lab’s “Opera of the Future” lab for three and a half hours at the lab’s spring meeting earlier this week. But there was no sheet music on the music stand. Instead, Kim watched colourful bubbles on an iPad that displayed what people watching along online wanted to hear.

The piece was “an experiment in collaborative improvisation”, says composer and lab director Tod Machover. People at home could listen to ten clips of music from Bach to the Beatles and rate their preferences. If listeners said, “This is nice, but I’d like a little more Radiohead and a little less Schubert,” Kim had to respond by improvising in real time.

The event was designed to test a new tool and approach to engage Toronto residents in contributing musical ideas to our current project, “A Toronto Symphony: Concerto for Composer and City.” Visit the site for more information and to SIGN UP!!

Read the full New Scientist article: Crowdsourced piano-playing lets you choose the tune

Armenia Project – Video of concert now available

It’s wonderful what young people can achieve if just given the tools, encouragement and respect. Back on February 25, 2012, two of Armenia’s elite musical ensembles dig into new pieces composed entirely by children from Armenia and the United States. The children used Hyperscore software developed by the MIT Media Lab’s Opera of the Future group. The concert, “A-to-A: A World in Harmony,” featured the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra and DOGMA, one of the country’s most popular rock bands. The event was streamed live. Here’s the press release that describes the background of the event.  The live stream was recorded and is now available for your viewing pleasure:

Toronto Project – A Collaborative Improvisation

You can take part today in the latest experiment for the Toronto Symphony project? In a message posted on the project website Tod Machover explains:

Welcome to an experiment in collaborative improvisation!

On Tuesday, April 24th from 3:00–5:00 pm EST, we’ll be offering the possibility for you to join us at the MIT Media Lab to help shape an ongoing improvisation, designed by me and performed by pianist Tae Kim.

Listen to the 10 music fragments below and use the sliders to express your preferences. An ongoing update will be presented visually to Tae, and he will respond by favoring the types of music which emerge. The overall effect will be of a kind of collective musical memory, with well-known melodies, harmonies and textures intertwining, sometimes recognizable and often combining and colliding in unexpected ways.

The Media Lab gets ready for today's experiment!

Sounds cool! The site explains that “this experiment is part of the process of testing the tools and methods for creating a new symphony in collaboration with the citizens of Toronto, to be premiered by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at the New Creations Festival in March 2013.”

Visit the event page to participate in real time. To follow this project as it unfolds, please sign up to receive email alerts.

This improvisation is based on a play about memory—currently running in Cambridge, MA—for which I composed the music and at which Tae Kim performs live. It’s running through May 13th, so come see it if you have a chance.

WBUR Visionaries (Video)

WBUR (90.9FM) launched its “Visionaries” series today with a feature about Tod Machover. The program airs one more time today, at 5:50PM EST, and should be available later on as a podcast. The transcript of the story is available online, together with this new video showing some of the projects at the MIT Media Lab’s Opera of the Future group. Don’t miss the wonderful footage of Dan Ellsey, a 37-year-old man with cerebral palsy, whose inner composer was set free by Hyperscore software. Watch the unfettered joy on his face as he listens to a song he composed.