This talk occurred earlier this year and just showed up on YouTube. It provides an excellent overview of the work by Tod Machover’s Hyperinstruments and Opera of the Future groups at the MIT Media Lab. Speaking from the Media Lab to the Munich audience via a video conferencing system, Tod and his students demonstrate the technologies and their applications to musical performances, composition, health and creative collaborations.
The British radio program “The Sound Bath” (on MyWordRadio), dedicated to the exploration and appreciation of the human voice, interviewed composer Tod Machover about his newest opera Death and the Powers. Interviewer Angelina Kalahari, a classical opera singer herself, leads a fascinating and original conversation about how the composer approaches writing for the human voice in his operas. Very illuminating!
Composer and M.I.T. professor Tod Machover takes listeners on a guided tour of music at the M.I.T. Media Lab on BBC Radio 3’s flagship classical music program, “Music Matters”. The program airs tomorrow (Saturday, April 23) and spotlights Boston. In addition to music at M.I.T. the program will feature two-time Grammy Award winning clarinettist Richard Stolzman, Boston’s acclaimed early music ensembles (Boston Camerata and Handel and Haydn Society) and El Sistema USA, modelled on Venezuela’s now legendary music education system.
Download the complete program on this week’s Music Matters podcast.
Yesterday’s event, Music|Machines: Celebrating 50 Years of Music & Technology @ MIT, was a great success. The all-day program of talks, discussions and evening concert featured some giants of the past half-century of music and technology and attracted an overflow crowd to the M.I.T. Media Lab. The day-time talks were webcast live. Videos of those presentations will be posted shortly on the event web site. In the meantime, here are a few snaps taken with Blackberries and iPhones. High-definition photos have been posted at the FAST site!
Ground-breaking audio technologies play a crucial role in Death and the Powers, as we learn in this excellent article posted by Duran Audio. The writer interviewed Theatre Sound Designer and Consultant Chris Full, who has been working closely with composer Tod Machover and his M.I.T. Media Lab team on the project. “Tod and I first collaborated on Skellig (the Opera) at The Sage Gateshead which combined a classic operatic orchestra with synthesised instruments and real world sample textures using a mixture of traditional sound re-enforcement and Ambisonic encoding to immerse the audience in an enveloping sound scape,” Full says. “For ‘Death and the Powers’ our goal was to build on what we achieved on Skellig by increasing the versatility of the sound environment and adding a layer of real-time manipulation of the sound sources and effects.”
“I heard a demonstration of WFS [Wave Field Synthesis] a few years ago and immediately thought of how amazing this technology would be in reproducing an immersive audio environment – the whole audience area is the sweet spot!”. The problem was that at that time there wasn’t any way to drive the DSP in order to dynamically position and control sources in the soundfield.” The article goes on to describe how Full and the M.I.T. Media Lab team met these challenges to create “the world’s first WFS system specifically designed for theatrical, cinema, entertainment and theme park applications.”
Duran Audio – Death and the Powers Monaco: MIT teams up with AXYS for a Royal Premiere in Monaco
For Death and the Powers, I have primarily been working on the interactive systems, including the wearable sensors and vocal analysis system that we use to transform Jim Maddalena’s live performance into the performance of the entire theatrical set. It’s a terrific theatrical challenge: what do you do when your main performer is not actually visible to the audience, but has to be present in a completely non-anthropomorphic form? I’m measuring all kinds of elements of Jim’s performance, from his singing voice to his gestures to his breath, and abstracting all of these elements into complex parameters that convey the character’s emotional expressivity, like the qualities of his movement or the timbre of his voice. These parameters can then be mapped to parameters of the graphical system that drives the visual content on the three “bookshelves” of the set. These mappings are not naïve or one-to-one, with just one particular sensor linked to just one parameter of the visual output. Instead we’re creating sophisticated and rich connections that make the walls seem alive and able to convey the presence of Simon Powers.
One important part of this work was to create a mapping system that would be very flexible and react appropriately to the fast-paced theatrical rehearsal process. The visual system is capable of creating an enormous variety of representations of Simon Powers; as those representations change and develop from scene to scene and during the course of rehearsals, the way that they’re controlled by the live performance has to change as well. I have to be able to adjust the mappings between Jim’s performance and the visuals immediately when given directions from Diane Paulus or visual notes from Alex McDowell, without having to stop the program to make changes. The rehearsal process so far has been testing that system, but it seems to be working successfully!
Tod is on a media roll this week… here’s a terrific article in Boston Magazine – Genius Composition: How professor Tod Machover and a group of MIT scientists are creating the future of music. Here’s a quote: “Machover believes the music – not the technology – is the message. And if this means alienating the purists who think that all these gadgets are somehow inauthentic next to a violin or cello, so be it. “What’s authentic is anything that allows an individual to communicate,” he says.”
The article seems bound to stir up some strong opinions regarding what is “legitimate” music-making in this age of technology-assisted and technology-enhanced musical experiences. What do you think?