“Philadelphia Voices” Q&A

MIT composer Tod Machover, center-left, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, center-right, at the conclusion of Machover’s new symphony “Philadelphia Voices,” at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, Thursday, April 6, 2018.
Image: Jessica Griffin/Philadelphia Orchestra

Tod Machover’s newest symphonic work, “Philadelphia Voices”, is both a sonic portrait of the city and a message from the city to the world, the composer explains in this Q&A interview with the MIT News Office. Machover discusses the germination of the piece, its evolution as he spoke to hundreds of Philadelphians, and how the music conveys ideas about individualism, freedom, conflict, and community.

There’s a moment where the conductor steps aside and lets the orchestra and the chorus follow these individual songs. And to me, it’s a feeling of democracy, in a messy city like Philadelphia which is wonderfully vibrant, but where not everybody is following the same tune, and not everybody is following the conductor. You feel the individuality of each of these choruses and of the individual singers, representing the kind of democracy — and the kind of listening to each other — that is most needed right now.

Read the interview here: Q&A: Composer Tod Machover presents “Philadelphia Voices”


New York Times beguiled by “Cheese Steak solo”

If the Philadelphia Eagles can win the Super Bowl, why can’t Philly’s iconic cheese steak have its moment too? So seems to be the question driving New York Times reporter Michael Cooper as he shadowed Tod Machover, who was on a last-ditch quest to capture the perfect audio recording at Pat’s, one of the city’s premier purveyors of the delicacy. In this video, Machover shows how he manipulated the recording to bring out the juicy bits: Continue reading

Sounds and sights of the Mummers Parade

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From Tod Machover’s Facebook page:

Was in Philadelphia for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, to experience various Philadelphia Orchestra events (New Year’s Eve concert and New Year’s Day Open House) and the be present for all the Mummers famous New Year’s Day events, including the Parade (in totally freezing weather – I thought my body was going to meld with the metal viewing bleachers), the music and performance competitions, and the Fancy Brigade performances at the Convention Center. The Mummers are definitely an indispensable part of the Philly Picture, as I expected, and I will be weaving their story into PHILADELPHIA VOICES, now in the heat of composition/production. The rich sax-banjo-bass sound of the Mummers, plus the straightforward, non-ironic imagination of their lavish costumes and performances is something to behold – down-to-earth, exuberant, and strangely touching (which is not the press they often get). I was very glad to be there…although I am still waiting for sensation to come back into some of my fingers and toes!!!

Here’s a little video…of one of the groups at the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia…they were a sort of Boston Tea Party meets Philadelphia Revolution:) Conveys some of the spirit of being in the middle of this crazy celebration. You can get an extra sense of just how cold it was down there from this Philly TV report (https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/…/Mummers-Parade-Still-a-Go…). Quite an experience, and a great way to start off 2018!!!!!

A sneak peek at Philadelphia Voices

Hot off the laser printer, the first page of the choral/keyboard part for Philadelphia Voices! In case you’ve been wondering what Tod Machover has been doing, holed up in his barn for the past month… The new symphonic work for the Philadelphia Orchestra is scheduled to premier in early April (check out the event calendar). No pressure!

Check out the City Symphonies blog

Be sure to read–and subscribe to–the City Symphonies blog, which has been posting some captivating stories about the Philadelphia Voices project. Here’s an excerpt from the most recent post, Jam Session with Sister Cities Girlchoir:

I gave the girls a challenge of helping to create Philadelphia Voices by thinking of words and phrases that convey the essence of the city to each of them, and then making melodies or texts to express those feelings. They will all work on this on their own and in Saturday rehearsals, and then we’ll get back together in a few weeks to share results. I am sure that some of this material will end up in Philadelphia Voices; the Sister Cities Girlchoir will be among the several hundred voices on stage for the premiere performances in Philly and at Carnegie Hall. Exciting!


Philadelphia Voices @ National Constitution Center

Composer Tod Machover visits the National Constitution Center on Constitution Day, September 17, 2017, for his newest city symphony project, “Philadelphia Voices.” His objective: to collect sounds that capture the spirit of the place that gave birth to American democracy. Add your voice to the project by downloading the Philadelphia Voices app!

Download in the iTunes Store

Download in Google Play Store


Detroit Free Press on “Symphony in D”


Terrific article in today’s Detroit Free Press by Mark Stryker. On his Facebook page, Tod Machover comments: “Stryker paints the background for the project beautifully, and describes the paradoxical nature of this “ephemeral” work – that tries to capture this moment in Detroit’s history with a not-likely-to-repeat cast of characters – with the simultaneous goal of leaving something lasting and significant. We sure are trying to do both.”

Our favorite quote from the article:

“He had such an inclusive view of  the story he wanted to tell about Detroit,” said Marsha Music, a longtime writer on African-American music and culture in Detroit and a 2012 Kresge Fellow. She’ll be reading a poem during the symphony’s fourth movement, “Memories and Dreams.”

“Right off the bat, he wanted to include voices that had  historically not been heard, particularly in a classical milieu. I was so impressed with his desire to capture so many of the archive sounds of the city, this important ephemera, and merge them into a musical form. He had a true curiosity. He never gave off the feeling, ‘Oh, I got Detroit under my belt.’ “

Read the full article here.

Buy tickets to the DSO’s world premiere here.