Prelude to Toronto – Crowdsourced piano improv

Image: Lisa Grossman

Last week’s experiment at the MIT Media Lab tested out a new system to allow the listening public to express musical preferences to a pianist who responded in real time. Tae Kim’s tour de force of improvisation drew a highly engaged crowd both at the Media Lab and online, as well as some media attention. This story just appeared in New Scientist and describes the scene:

Kim, a graduate of the New England Conservatory, had been playing the piano in the MIT Media Lab’s “Opera of the Future” lab for three and a half hours at the lab’s spring meeting earlier this week. But there was no sheet music on the music stand. Instead, Kim watched colourful bubbles on an iPad that displayed what people watching along online wanted to hear.

The piece was “an experiment in collaborative improvisation”, says composer and lab director Tod Machover. People at home could listen to ten clips of music from Bach to the Beatles and rate their preferences. If listeners said, “This is nice, but I’d like a little more Radiohead and a little less Schubert,” Kim had to respond by improvising in real time.

The event was designed to test a new tool and approach to engage Toronto residents in contributing musical ideas to our current project, “A Toronto Symphony: Concerto for Composer and City.” Visit the site for more information and to SIGN UP!!

Read the full New Scientist article: Crowdsourced piano-playing lets you choose the tune


Reviews of “Yesterday Happened”

Pianist Tae Kim (foreground) in "Yesterday Happened"

Reviews are starting to pop up for “Yesterday Happened: Remembering HM.” The music is receiving favorable comments! The play runs through May 13. Go and see it!

Boston Globe – Investigating the absence of memory  “…the most inspired element of “Yesterday Happened” happens in the five minutes before the play starts. Pianist Tae Kim rambles from one musical snippet to another — everything from Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” and Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto to “As Time Goes By” and “White Christmas” — as if he couldn’t remember any of them for more than a few seconds. During those five minutes, you get a sense of what it’s like to have Henry Molaison’s brain.” (Editor’s note: The Globe review does not mention that Tod Machover composed the music for the play and that this musical “ramble” was in fact composed by him.)

Broadway World BWW Review: YESTERDAY HAPPENED More Science Than Art  “The highlight of this theatrical experience is the musicalization by Composer/Sound Designer Tod Machover, affected brilliantly by Pianist Tae Kim. Classical improvisations infused with variations on popular themes strike chords in our collective memory that imply a sense of what Henry’s mind might have felt like when something tickled his recollection. I heard snippets of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” “As Time Goes By,” and a Scott Joplin riff, to mention a few, woven into the music of the prologue. Kim’s accompaniment flows under the play and provides a buoyancy that it otherwise lacks.”

Edge Boston – Review of Yesterday Happened  “…the play’s score, a mishmash of recognizable classical pieces that emerge, transform, and subside into an ever-shifting musical landscape. (Pianist Tae Kim creates a sonic nebula, a sort of dream made of music, that sets an appropriate mood. Kudos all around to scenic designer Justin Townsend, lighting designer Jeff Adelberg, and composer / sound designer Tod Machover, whose efforts help turn this quite heady play into a visceral experience.”

From Here to There – The Quickening Art “I was particularly impressed by Tod Machover’s music for the play. It was composed of dozens of tiny fragments of familiar music which were tied together in strange and unexpected ways. Throughout the play, your brain kept waking up and yelling “I know this music”, and then going, “no, nevermind, that’s not it”.”

Nature: Boston Blog – “Remembering HM”: Neuroscience takes the stage at Central Square Theater Yesterday creates a bridge between neuroscience and art that fulfills the production’s mission of “providing artistic and emotional experiences not available in other forms of dialogue about science.” Sitting in the audience, thinking about Henry’s memory revealed a more subtle view of my own memory. I walked out of the theater with a new way of seeing, which is ultimately what good art and good science can do, especially when we put them together.”

From the U.S. to Armenia, Kids Build a Musical Bridge

From PRWeb

Cambridge, MA and Yerevan, Armenia. The opulent Armenian Opera Theater in the heart of Armenia’s capital Yerevan will reverberate with some truly fresh sounds on the evening of February 25, 2012, as two of Armenia’s elite musical ensembles dig into new pieces composed entirely by children from Armenia and the United States. The concert, “A-to-A: A World in Harmony,”features the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra and DOGMA, one of the country’s most popular rock bands. The event is co-sponsored by the LUYS Education Foundation and the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan to celebrate the embassy’s 20th anniversary.

The concert will be viewable via a live web link at on February 25 at 10:30 AM U.S. Eastern Standard Time. It will also be broadcast over Armenian Public TV H1 around the world.

Despite the composers’ youth – they range in age from 8 to 14 – their work is rich and rewarding to hear, thanks to the boost their musical imaginations received from Hyperscore, a music-creation software developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab by a team led by renowned composer Tod Machover. Hyperscore puts unprecedented composing power into the hands of people who long to express themselves musically, regardless of their formal training. Continue reading

From America to Armenia – Building a Musical Bridge

Teams in Cambridge, MA, and Armenia are working furiously to prepare for the concert next Saturday, February 25, at the Aram Khachaturian Concert Hall in Armenia. School kids in Boston and Armenia collaborated to create new music, composed with Hyperscore software. Go give them a listen here: Hyperscore: The World in Harmony  Update: The site will go live to the public on February 25.

The event celebrates the 20-year anniversary of the United States Embassy in Armenia. The Armenia Philharmonic Orchestra and Dogma rock band will premiere selected new works.

October 5 – Robots and Chowdah

If you’re in Boston in early October, check out this event at the Museum of Fine Arts:

Mixed Taste: Tag-team Lectures on Unrelated Topics: Robot Opera and Clam Chowder

Huh? You may well ask. What do operatic robots have to do with chopped clams simmered with onions in a creamy broth? We don’t know, and that’s the idea behind this wildly popular series of talks curated by Adam Lerner , director and “chief animator” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver. He is hosting this evening’s discussion with Tod Machover, composer of Death and the Powers, and Richard Vellante, executive VP of restaurants and executive chef, Legal Sea Foods. Chowder will be served!!

Event details

October 5, 2011, 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Remis Auditorium, 161
$15MFA members, seniors, and students

Ticket Purchase Required

Behind FAST – Interview with Festival Director Tod Machover

Archinect just published an extensive interview with composer Tod Machover about the process and thinking that went into the creation of MIT’s Festival of Art, Science and Technology (FAST). This article provides a great deal of fascinating insight into how this festival came to be. If you’re in Boston this weekend, don’t miss FAST Light, an extravaganza of illuminated installations that will light up the campus and Charles River.

Read the full article: MIT, Going FAST After 150 Years

Dis(course)4, by Craig Boney, James Coleman and Andrew Manto. On display in the stairwell of the Maclaurin Buildings.

FAST Light – Photos and Video

Update May 11, 2011. Nice write-up in The Tech (M.I.T.’s campus newspaper).

Update May 9, 2011. Check out these beautiful photos of FAST Light taken over this past weekend. There must have been tens of thousands of people there, thronging the campus and the riverbank. Joyous and moving.

Getting very excited about tomorrow night’s launch of FAST Light. A stretch of Memorial Drive along the M.I.T. Campus will be closed to traffic, and the Massachusetts Avenue bridge will be illuminated. Check out this NECN-TV spot about the event.

Here are some photos of the installations being put into place.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.