Tod Machover: Technology and the Future of New Music

Tod Machover: Technology and the Future of New Music


Tod Machover is widely considered one of the most important and influential composers of his generation, and has been highly praised for music that boldly breaks traditional artistic and cultural boundaries, offering a unique and innovative synthesis of acoustic and electronic sound, of symphony orchestras and interactive computers, of operatic arias and rock songs, and consistently delivering serious and powerful messages in an accessible and immediate way. As critic Lloyd Schwartz has recently written: “What’s most exciting about Machover’s pieces in general is how beautiful and moving they are, what lyrical and exotic melismas keep surfacing (and how scintillatingly they contrast with the shattering electronic textures), how dramatically they build, how they haven’t a dull moment, and what magnificent opportunities for performers they provide.”

After receiving degrees from the Juilliard School in New York where he studied with Elliott Carter and Roger Sessions, Machover was Director of Musical Research at Pierre Boulez’s IRCAM institute in Paris (1978-85). Since 1985, he has been Professor of Music & Media, Head of the Opera of the Future/Hyperinstruments Group, and, since 1995, Co-Director of the Things That Think (TTT) and Toys of Tomorrow (TOT) consortia at M.I.T.’s Media Lab. Machover’s music has been performed and commissioned by the world’s most important performers and ensembles, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, the Boston Symphony, the London Sinfonietta, the Ensemble InterContemporain (Paris), the Ensemble Modern (Frankfurt), the Tokyo String Quartet, the Kronos Quartet, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. His work has received many international prizes and awards, from such organizations as the National Endowment for the Arts, the French Culture Ministry, the Koussevitzky Foundation of the Library of Congress, the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University, and the Reader’s Digest/Lila Acheson Wallace Foundation. In 1995, Machover was named a “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres,” one of France’s highest cultural honors, and in 1998 he was awarded Germany’s first DigiGlobe Prize for “creativity and innovation in interactive media.” Also in 1998, his Angels CD (Erato Disques) was nominated for a National Public Radio “Performance Today” Award, “for introducing new audiences to classical music.”

In addition to Resurrection, Machover’s theatrical works include his opera, VALIS, composed for the 10th anniversary of Paris’ Centre Pompidou, and Media/Medium, for magicians Penn & Teller. In addition to his work as a composer, Machover is widely noted as a designer of new technology for music. He is the inventor of hyperinstruments, which use smart computers to augment musicality, virtuosity, and creativity. Performers as diverse as Yo-Yo Ma, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Prince and Peter Gabriel have used these hyperinstruments. Since 1991, Machover has adapted his hyperinstruments for use by musical amateurs, students, and children, culminating in his Brain Opera, which invites the public to participate in each performance, live or via the Internet. The Brain Opera premiered at the Lincoln Center Festival in New York in 1996, before touring in North America, Europe, and Asia. It is currently being updated and improved, and the final version — with an additional “Future Music Blender” — will be permanently installed next year in Vienna, Austria, at the new “House of Music.” In 1998, Machover collaborated on the design of the underground Meteorite Museum in Essen, Germany, creating a series of interactive spaces and composing a walk-through opera, Meteor Music.

Future projects include a new opera, Twelve Looney Tones: Schoenberg in Hollywood (which explores the relationship between high and pop culture), the Toy Symphony (which will introduce specially designed Music Toys for a creative collaboration between children and symphony orchestras in ten different cities), and various large-scale interactive works for museums, arts centers, and public spaces around the world.

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