Here are the final questions from New Vilna Review Editor Daniel Levenson’s recent interview with composer Tod Machover:
NVR: Can you give us a little glimpse of what you might be working on right now?
TM: Whenever I finish a project as large and involving as Death and the Powers (which took me about 10 years to realize from the moment of original conception), one of my main goals afterwards is to evaluate what we have actually accomplished and what that suggests for future work. So one thing I am doing is making some small adjustments – in timing for instance – to the opera in advance of our U.S. premiere performances in March. In addition, I am exploring ways that the music-visual legacy environment invented by Simon Powers in the opera – what he calls The System – can be adapted so that anyone can create a new form of “Personal Opera” to express and communicate essential feelings about oneself or one’s family and friends. I am also working on a new work that will explore the thoughts, words, and “listening process” of MIT professor Noam Chomsky. This piece has been commissioned by the Kronos Quartet to help celebrate MIT’s 150th anniversary, and we will present a first version at MIT’s FAST Festival of Art, Science and Technology on April 15th. And I am beginning to plan my next opera. I can’t talk about it yet, but as it happens, it will more directly touch on a Jewish subject than any other work of mine.
NVR: Is there anything else you would like to add?
TM: Since a lot of my work involves unusual new technology and often pushes the boundaries of musical performance and presentation, there is sometimes a tendency for people to look more at the means that I use than the music that I create. At the end of the day, what matters to me most is the music itself, and how I can communicate ideas and feelings about the human experience through memorable melodies, invigorating rhythms, and embracing sonorities. My hope is that people will concentrate on this aspect of my work more and more, and it was therefore especially gratifying to see one of my favorite music critics, Andrew Porter (formerly of The Times of London, then chief critic of The New Yorker, now writing for Opera Magazine), emphasize just this point in his just-published review of Death and the Powers. If the music doesn’t speak for itself, then I haven’t done my job.
From the New Vilna Review: “Music, Technology and Immortality: an Interview with Composer and MIT Professor, Tod Machover”
Copyright 2011 The New Vilna Review. Republished here with the express permission of the publisher of the New Vilna Review.