Articles by Tod Machover

  • Article

    Launching Symphony in D: A collaborative symphony by and for Detroit

    November 19, 2014 by Tod Machover

    Launching Symphony in D: A collaborative symphony by and for Detroit

    MIT Media Lab composer Tod Machover. Photo by Priska Ketterer.

    What does Detroit sound like? Today, Knight Foundation is announcing a new partnership with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Composer Tod Machover of MIT to find out by creating a collaborative symphony by, for and with the people of Detroit. Below, Machover writes about the process that will be unveiled today at an event in the city.

    "Announcing 'Symphony In D' " on YouTube

    I can’t tell you how excited I am to be starting on the Symphony in D project, which proposes to create a musical portrait of Detroit using both notes and noises, and created by me in collaboration with everyone in Detroit who wants to participate…and I hope that means you! The project starts this week, will develop over the coming year, and will be premiered by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra almost exactly one year from now (all thanks to the support of Knight Foundation). One year seems like a long time, but I promise you that it will go by very quickly. So I invite you to join me as soon as you can in this adventure to create Symphony in D together.

    I have learned a lot while working on four such collaborative symphonies over the past two years – for Toronto, Edinburgh, Perth, and currently Lucerne– and will build on these other projects to make our Detroit collaboration even more fun and satisfying. And it is so very exciting to bring the City Symphonies project to the U.S. for the first time, and especially to Detroit. No city in the world has such an opportunity to study its proud past, to reflect on current possibilities and to boldly build a different future.

  • Article

    Discovering the sounds of Detroit

    February 23, 2015 by Tod Machover

    Discovering the sounds of Detroit

    The Symphony in D project records sounds with the students of Detroit’s YouthVille.

    A new, collaborative symphony, led by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Tod Machover of the MIT Media Lab and funded by Knight, is taking shape in the Motor City. Below, Machover, who is gathering sounds from the people of Detroit to shape the piece, writes about his work. A version of this post was originally published at SymphonyinD.com.

    I recently returned from a trip to Detroit, my second in a month, and my third since we officially launched the Symphony in D project in late November. Besides exploring as many corners of the city as I can and sometimes soaking up impressions without any agenda—often the best way to find surprises—my goal right now is to meet people who would be interested in collaborating with me, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and my team at the MIT Media Lab to create this musical portrait of Detroit, past, present and future.

  • Article

    Discovering the sounds of Detroit

    February 24, 2015 by Tod Machover

    Discovering the sounds of Detroit

    By Tod Machover, composer and head of the MIT Media Lab’s Opera of the Future Group A new, collaborative symphony, led by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Tod Machover of the MIT Media Lab and funded by Knight, is taking shape in the Motor City. Below, Machover, who is gathering...

  • Article

    The sound of Detroit captured in a new sonic portrait: Symphony in D

    November 12, 2015 by Tod Machover

    The sound of Detroit captured in a new sonic portrait: Symphony in D

    Symphony in D from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

    On Nov. 20, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will debut Symphony in D, a collaborative project made by and for Detroit in partnership with Knight Foundation. Last year, the DSO and Composer Tod Machover asked Detroiters, what does the city sound like? They responded by submitting 15,000 sound files including more than 100 hours of audio. Here, Machover writes about how the piece has evolved. Photos courtesy DSO.

     

    I first thought of the idea of creating a sonic portrait of a city through collaborating with its citizens when the Toronto Symphony Orchestra approached me about a commission in 2012. I was inspired by that request to think about how the real sounds of the city could be combined with – and transformed into – a musical discourse of notes, rhythms and colors, and how sharing the composition process with everyone might help close the gap between the mystery of musical creation and the pleasure of listening. I truly enjoyed working with the Toronto Symphony to develop this model of community composition and we presented A Toronto Symphony in March 2013, followed by compositions for Edinburgh, Scotland, Perth, Australia and most recently Lucerne, Switzerland. Through each of these projects, we learned how to establish community dialogue through “listening” to a city, how to bring people from diverse backgrounds together through sound and music, and how to create a symphony that is both rich for its process as well as for its musical result.

    None of these previous experiences, however, prepared me for the excitement and power of creating a collaborative city symphony in Detroit. Symphony in D came about because Dennis Scholl – then head of arts at Knight Foundation – heard about the Toronto project and arranged to attend the premiere of Festival City at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival. Dennis felt strongly about bringing the project to the U.S. and proposed that we think about Detroit, because of the incredible dynamism of the city as well as the adventurous spirit of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Fortunately, the DSO was interested, so together we planned the project and launched it last November. Since then, the community response has been simply overwhelming, from the generous sharing of sounds, to numerous exploration and improvisation sessions of making music together, to listening to unforgettable stories and memories, and to meeting some of the most imaginative, independent, visionary and passionate people on the planet. To me, it feels as if Detroit was the place I had in mind—without knowing it at the time—when I first imagined these city symphonies.

    We launched the project with an invitation to the public to record and share their favorite, most indelible sounds of Detroit, and with my colleagues at the MIT Media Lab, we created a special mobile app—conveniently called Symphony in D—to make this as easy as possible. Recorded sounds were also automatically marked by geographical location, and a growing “sound map” of the city emerged, which the community could listen to, comment on and recombine into soundscapes using another app we created called “Constellation.” Over the following months, we received far more sound submissions from Detroit citizens than in any other city so far: iconic sounds from the People Mover to sporting events (winning or losing:); personal sounds such as stirrings in someone’s backyard to a child’s music practice session; mechanical sounds from automobile assembly plants to metal sculpture workshops; nature sounds from boating at Belle Isle to wandering in a blizzard; to cars, cars and more cars, from historic to most recent models, lovingly recorded zipping by on a city street or Grand Prix raceway to meticulously recorded from the driver’s seat or from under the hood. Many of these sounds were sent to us by individuals, but—unlike in the other cities we have visited—some were recorded by groups, such as Ringside Media and Doner, that went way beyond the call of duty to help share special aspects of the city they love. I also spent much time in Detroit exploring many corners of the city, listening and recording, and then re-experiencing back at MIT, or in my 18th-century barn studio in Waltham, Mass.