Wanna help write a symphony? There’s an app for that

As the Opera of the Future team heads into the final stretch of its ambitious Toronto Symphony project, it has released a brand-new web application called Media Scores. The system enables anyone to mold sections of composer Tod Machover’s music like pieces of sonic clay, save their work, and share them with other users, including Machover. It’s all part of an experiment to stretch the boundaries of collaboration between artist and the public.

The first Media Scores activity was just released yesterday. According to the A Toronto Symphony website, it “will allow you to help complete the Finale section (“Toronto Dances”) of the piece, contribute to the accompaniment “texture” of the work’s virtuosic “City Soaring” movement, and experiment with other sections of the composition to build your own unique blend and personalized musical narrative.”

In this CBC News feature, Tod explains his motivation for turning what could have been a straightforward orchestra commission into a high-wire act involving entirely novel technology and attempts to engage a diverse swath of Toronto’s citizens in helping him create the piece:

music-maker long interested in technology and audience participation, Machover has more recently been fascinated at how his teen daughter’s generation is taking popular songs and morphing them — for instance through cover versions posted online.

That said, “it’s pretty unlikely that [a Lady Gaga YouTube cover his daughter makes with her friends] will change Lady Gaga’s next song,” he admitted.

The interactive Toronto Symphony project is his attempt to turn that involvement into true, two-way communication…

What he’s grappling with now is not just creating an abstract piece of music, but developing something that affects people emotionally, “involves being aware, literally and metaphorically, of what your city sounds like” and “doing justice to the richness of what’s coming in.”

Check out this video in which Tod explains how Media Scores works. Then go and try it out!

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