Tod’s current project, “A Toronto Symphony”, is about active, mindful listening to the world around us, in this case the city of Toronto. The composer asks the inhabitants to focus on the sounds that evoke strong feelings, images and memories about their city and their lives, raw sounds that he will transform into music. As an example, Tod turns to his 2008 opera “Skellig”, based on David Almond’s beloved modern classic. About “Skellig”, Tod writes that it is
…an opera about the relationship between the natural world that surrounds us, our everyday perception, and the heightened perception – and action – that comes when we pay close attention – and listen – to what is really there. Hence the opera combines recorded sounds as well as transitions that find the music in those sounds via voices (a young people’s chorus) and instruments (a chamber orchestra).
Here are some examples:
- Track 1: A chorus of untrained young people listened to field recordings of nighttime in the outskirts of the city, and imitated those sounds with their voices.
- Track 2: The same group of young people listened to field recordings – mixed by me – of birds, and transmuted them into “human” sounds using their voices.
- Track 3: I listened carefully to recordings of birds and wrote this music for the winds in the orchestra (mostly piccolos, flutes and clarinets) to play.
- Track 4: For this section of Skellig, the young people’s chorus was asked to listen to a recorded mix of nighttime sounds while imitating and augmenting the textures with their voices.
- Track 5: In this final example, voices and instruments were asked to listen to a mixed recording of sound surrounding the city, with some birds and other sounds, and to imitate and augment what they heard, producing the following texture.