Tod Machover, Opera Composer – an interview

mp3 audio only – full programme 

Tod Machover (b. 1953 in New York) has been called “America’s most wired composer” by the Los Angeles Times. He is widely recognized as one of the most significant and innovative composers of his generation, and is also celebrated for inventing new technology for music, including Hyperinstruments which he launched in 1986. Machover studied with Elliott Carter and Roger Sessions at The Juilliard School and was the first Director of Musical Research at Pierre Boulez’s IRCAM in Paris. He has been Professor of Music and Media at the MIT Media Lab (Cambridge, USA) since it was founded in 1985, and is Director of the Lab’s Hyperinstruments and Opera of the Future Groups. Since 2006, Machover has also been Visiting Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Tod Machover’s music has been acclaimed for breaking traditional artistic and cultural boundaries, offering a unique and innovative synthesis of acoustic and electronic sound, of symphony orchestras and interactive computers, and of operatic arias and rock songs. Machover’s compositions have been commissioned and performed by many of the world’s most prestigious ensembles and soloists, including the Ensemble InterContemporain, the London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Modern, Speculum Musicae, BBC Scottish Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Pops, Houston Grand Opera, Bunkamura (Tokyo), Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Carnegie Hall, Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Collage New Music, Speculum Musicae, Ars Electronica, Casa da Musica (Porto), American Composers Orchestra, Tokyo String Quartet, Kronos Quartet, Ying Quartet, Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Kim Kashkahian, David Starobin, Matt Haimovitz, and many more. His work has been awarded numerous prizes and honors, among others from from the Fromm and Koussevitzky Foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, the German Culture Ministry, and the French Culture Ministry, which named him a Chevalier de l’Order des Arts et des Lettres. In 2007 he was awarded the Steinmetz Prize from the IEEE.

Machover has been particularly noted for his operatic compositions, which include: VALIS (1987), a science fiction opera – called ‘the first opera of the 21st century” by The New York Times – commissioned for the tenth anniversary of the Centre Georges Pompidou; Media/Medium (1994), a “magic” opera for magicians Penn & Teller; the audience-interactive Brain Opera (1996/8), commissioned for the first Lincoln Center Festival, toured worldwide, and permanently installed at the Haus der Musik in Vienna since 2000; and Resurrection (1999), based on Tolstoy’s last novel and commissioned by Houston Grand Opera. In addition, Machover has created numerous large-scale music installations for the general public, including the building-size underground art experience Meteorite (2000-2005) in Essen, Germany, a collaboration with media entrepreneur Andre Heller.  His opera, Skellig, based on the award-winning novel by David Almond and commissioned by the Sage Gateshead (UK), received its world premiere there to public acclaim and rave reviews in November 2008. His latest opera, a “robotic” opera, Death and the Powers, with an original libretto by U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky and directed by Diane Paulus, premiered in Monaco in September 2010 and in the US in March 2011.

Tod Machover has invented many new technologies for music, most notably his Hyperinstruments that use smart computers to augment musical expression and creativity. He has designed these hyperinstruments for some of the world’s greatest musicians, from Yo-Yo Ma to Prince, as well as for the general public and for children, as in his Toy Symphony project (www.toysymphony.net) – called “a vast, celebratory ode to the joy of music and its power to bring young and old together, diversity into unity (Boston Globe)” – which has been touring worldwide since 2002. Machover’s Hyperinstrument research has long been supported by major companies such as Yamaha, and several of his Music Toys have recently been made commercially available by Fisher-Price and others. In addition, the music composition software Hyperscore – originally developed by his team at the MIT Media Lab for children in the context of Toy Symphony – is fast gaining worldwide recognition as a popular creative tool for people of all ages and backgrounds. In awarding Machover the first Kurzweil Prize in Music and Technology in 2003, celebrated inventor and entrepreneur Raymond Kurzweil wrote: “Tod Machover is the only person I am aware of who contributes on a world-class level to both the technology of music creation and to music itself. Even within these two distinct areas, his contributions are remarkably diverse, and of exquisite quality.”

Machover’s music is published by Boosey & Hawkes and Ricordi Editions, and has been recorded on the Bridge, Oxingale, Erato, Albany and New World labels. Much of his music is also available via iTunes.

An interesting article about the work Tod Machover and his colleagues do at MIT – The Guardian, 18 May 2011

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/may/18/mit-massachusetts-150-years-genius

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About soundbath

I loved singing from a very young age and first performed in public when just seven years old. As a child, living as we did, on a farm in the middle of the Kalahari Desert - the place of my birth - we had no television and my mother played records by Mario Lanza, Guiseppe Di Stephano, Beniamino Gigli, Franco Corelli, Jussi Bjorling, Enrico Caruso and other well-known Italian opera tenors, day in and day out. I adored this music and their beautiful voices, and was convinced I would be a tenor when I grew up. But the small matter of being born a girl, shattered that dream! I trained as a soprano instead, and have been fortunate enough to sing all over the world, enjoying some wonderful moments along the way, including being invited to Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of my contribution to the music, economy and culture of the UK.
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