Open House at the Media Lab

So things have been pretty busy over here at Opera of the Future! Last week Iwas introduced to the creative team in a series of meetings aimed at evaluating the progress of the set, the music, and the singers. On Monday morning I sat in on a meeting with production designer Alex McDowell, technical director Peter Colao, visual designers Matt Checkowski and Peter Torpey, associate director Andrew Eggert, production development manager Bob Hsiung, research assistant Elly Jessop, and of course, Tod Machover himself. Since most of the creative team came in from scattered places all around the world – Los Angeles, New York, and Montreal to name a few – there was a lot of material to check in on, particularly having to do with the System, Simon’s three-paneled last invention that eventually absorbs Simon’s ideas, memories, and emotions.

The back-and-forth between the production team was incredibly fun to observe – Peter brought up the concern that the System might not fully incorporate Simon’s humanity (I think Matt put it best when he said “we don’t want it to look like an iTunes screensaver,”) to which Tod responded that hopefully this could be addressed by early rehearsals with Simon (played by James Maddelena). Alex noted that it would be important for the orchestra to have the emotional core of the system, at which point Tod asked: “are you saying that we literally want to plug the orchestra in?” Alex: “That’s what I think, yeah.”

The lab also just received the chandelier from Mystic Scenic Studios, the fabrication company in charge of building the sets. The piece itself is pretty awe-inspiring, and its actual arrival at the lab brought about new discussions about how to incorporate the several layers of the chandelier into the show – specifically, in how to reference the chandelier in the beginning of the show, its connection to the different points of the show, and how exactly to incorporate music into its design.

These meetings brought everyone together just in time for Sponsor Week at the Media Lab, which is the biannual gathering of corporations invested in all Media Lab projects. During this frenzied time, corporate sponsors come to the lab for a few days so that they can view demonstrations of current work, attend research group open houses, and attend talks by outside speakers. For the opera, it means several open houses displaying the robots, the chandelier, and the performance capture system; for me, it meant running around sticking my camera in people’s faces, hoping to capture each component on display and the spiel they were giving. Hopefully, this will give you a better idea of all the commotion than I can explain:

This week, Tod is in New York giving a presentation with Marvin Minsky at the Hayden Planetarium, so you’ll be hearing more from me once Tod gets back to Boston. Rehearsals start next week. Until then! (Additionally, by the next time you hear from me, I’ll be an MIT graduate. That part feels more surreal than a chorus of robots waxing poetic in song, but I guess stranger things have happened..)

Added link:

SmartPlanet: Marvin Minsky and Tod Machover talk music and the mind

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