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Hyperscore soars in “A Toronto Symphony”

A Toronto Symphony is the first of composer Tod Machover’s City Symphonies. It was commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, who premiered the piece in March 2013. With this project, Machover – who is Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music & Media at the MIT Media Lab – “rethought the symphony as a community event” (Musical America), a portrait of a place created for and by the people who live there.

As Machover described when he launched the project publicly in 2012, the goal was to create a sonic portrait of Toronto by “listening” to the city in order to discover its special features, by inviting all Torontonians to collect and submit their favorite sounds of the city and also to create original musical compositions using the Media Lab’s Hyperscore software, and then to engage in online and in-person workshops and activities to help shape the composition itself. The result produced a model which Machover and his team have brought to cities around the world. The MIT Symphony Orchestra (MITSO), led by Evan Ziporyn, programmed A Toronto Symphony for a concert that was to have taken place on March 13, 2020.

For this occasion, Machover revised the composition and also invited the student players of MITSO to collaborate with him to create a new section of the piece, now called “MIT Interprets Toronto”, a new twist on the City Symphony model. Another surprise was in store for the project when it was announced that MIT had to shut down – and students needed to leave campus – on March 13th, the very day of the concert, which needed – of course – to be cancelled. However, the MITSO players voted to come in for what would have been the dress rehearsal on the evening of March 12th, to play together for one last time before dispersing, and to record the music for the concert.

This video is of that March 12th recording, filmed by Peter Torpey, Paula Aguilera and Jonathan Williams. Torpey – who created the original visuals for the Toronto premiere – combined live footage of MITSO with collected visuals from Toronto, and added evocative new material as well. The video of Toronto’s CN Tower in the Toronto Dances finale is live footage from the 2013 premiere, when Machover, Torpey and team synchronized the tower’s LED lighting to the orchestral performance which was broadcast by the CBC.

Of this video performance, Tod Machover says: “Although we were not able to give the public performance of A Toronto Symphony as planned, it is especially meaningful to have this documentation of the piece that represents months of devoted work by MITSO and Evan Ziporyn. I am delighted that these young musicians were able to perform this difficult music so well. I’m also pleased that the piece ’transposed’ smoothly from Toronto to Cambridge (complete with a new section), and that orchestral music, electronics, “found” sounds, and multilayered visuals are combined just as I originally imagined them.”

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Between a Desert and the Deep Blue Sea

This city symphony was commissioned for the Perth International Arts Festival 2014 and premiered on March 1, 2014, by the Western Australia Symphony orchestra under the baton of Carolyn Kuan.

In our blog post, Tod Machover writes: “As part of our Symphony for Perth project, we have invited young people from throughout Greater Perth, in Western Australia, to create original compositions using our Hyperscore software, expressing some aspect of life – and sound – in Perth. Students from elementary through high school, and from the CBD to Narrogin, worked on their pieces from October through mid-December (brought together by Jemma Gurney, the amazing Education Coordinator at the Perth Festival). I was lucky enough to visit eight different schools when I was in Perth this fall, and got to hear all this music as it was developing. Great experience! Final compositions were sent to me a couple of weeks ago, and I have been listening to them ever since to decide how to incorporate as many of these brilliant, vivid musical visions as possible into the final Symphony.

  • The official website for the project provides additional details about the work and technology.
  • Check out this article in The Guardian with sound recordings of giant flies, garrulous cockatoos, and didgeridoo, among others.
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BBC documentary on the newest City Symphony

Reporter Andrea Shea delves into the creation of Tod Machover’s newest symphonic work, “Philadelphia Voices.”

From the famous Mummers’ New Year’s Day Parade to the sizzling of celebrated cheesesteaks, acclaimed U.S composer and inventor Tod Machover has been collecting sounds for his latest piece ‘Philadelphia Voices,’ a composition inspired by the heritage, sights and sounds of Philadelphia, the city known as the birthplace of American democracy.

Then in his barn studio, next to his Boston home, he manipulates these hours and hours of recording, crafting them into the music and soundscape for the piece. We also have behind the scenes access as the composition receives its premiere performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra and local choirs.

Listen HERE.

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Toy Symphony

“The expressions on the children’s faces were so moving, I will remember the day for the rest of my life. The whole orchestra and I unanimously agree that [Toy Symphony] is one of the most important things we have ever done, and that we will now commit more and more of our time, energy and budget to forwarding the agenda of introducing music to the next generations.”  – Kent Nagano, conductor, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin

On February 24, 2002, Toy Symphony received a highly successful European preview with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester in Berlin under Conductor Kent Nagano with guest Hyperviolin soloist Cora Venus Lunny. Scores of children throughout Berlin participated in school events and Toy Symphony workshops – excelling as performers and composers, and the sold out Open House and Concert created great buzz in Berlin through extensive print, radio, and television coverage both before and afterwards. An exciting pre-launch for the project.

  • Toy Symphony – Project homepage, with a wealth of information about the pedagogical philosophy, structuring a concert and the music toys (no longer available except for Hyperscore software). Click on Multimedia for information about the Toy Symphony workshops and concerts that were held in Berlin, Dublin, Glasgow, Boston and New York.
  • Toy Symphony – This Technology Review article describes the U.S. premiere of the Toy Symphony project, which featured Hyperscore compositions by children.
  • Toy Symphony in Berlin – Video of workshop and concert
  • Toy Symphony World Premiere in Dublin (2002)
  • Listen to hyperscore pieces composed for the Toy Symphony Project.
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Skaneateles Hyperscore II

Listen to five engaging, highly individual works composed by musical novices under the guidance of composer Stacy Garrop and Festival Co-Artistic Director David Ying.

We recently received audio recordings of several compositions by participants in the Hyperscore II project for the famed Skaneateles Music Festival. In April and May of 2011, composer Stacy Garrop visited schools in upstate New York, teaching students what it takes to compose music. Stacy helped kids of all ages to discover the music within; participants ranged in age from 10 to adult and included students from A.J. Smith Elementary in Union Springs, West Genesee Middle School and Skaneateles High School, as well as employees of ChaseDesign. The project culminated with the Hyperscore II Community Celebration at the 2011 festival.

We were very impressed by how each piece expresses a distinctive personality and diversity of structure. Click on the gallery images below to see what these pieces look like in Hyperscore.

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A Toronto Symphony

A Toronto Symphony. In this unprecedented creative experiment, composer Tod Machover has invited the citizens of Toronto to help create a new symphony orchestra piece. Several hundred school children participated, using Hyperscore to compose music about their city. Read this Musical Toronto blog post about what they accomplished. Here is one example, by Broadlands P.S. student Nebyou. His Hyperscore piece is displayed in the projection. The music is being played by members of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra:

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From Armenia to America

From the U.S. to Armenia, Kids Build a Musical Bridge. A-to-A, a project of the Luys Foundation, brought together children from Armenia and America to compose music together. In this photo montage, we see images from workshops and the concert at Armenia’s National Opera where Hyperscore composition were performed by the national symphony orchestra and DOGMA, a popular rock band (heard here playing one of the Hyperscore compositions). Read more: “When a “DREAM” comes true.” All of the kids’ Hyperscore pieces can be seen/heard here.

“Dream”, composed by Armenian child, arranged by DOGMA

Here is the entire concert performed at the Armenian National Opera theater:

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Festival City

Festival City, commissioned by the 2013 Edinburgh International Festival. It received its premier performance on August 27th, 2013, with the Royal Scottish Orchestra under the baton of Peter Oundjian. This piece incorporated hyperscore compositions by children in Edinburgh.

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A Symphony for Lucerne

A Symphony for Lucerne, commissioned by the Lucerne Festival, was premiered in September 2015, with Matthias Pintscher conducting the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra. Hundreds of sound recordings were contributed by Lucerne residents, along with Hyperscore compositions by school children. During the world premier performance, a barfuessfäger band from Lucerne’s famous Fasnacht (carnival) burst through the doors in the back of the hall and marched down the aisles to the front of the stage, filling the stately concert hall with its raucous sounds. Watch the performance here.

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Symphony in D

Symphony in D, commissioned by the Detroit Symphony, was premiered in November of 2015 by the Detroit Symphony under the baton of Leonard Slatkin. The project engaged a wide range of collaborators, from street musicians to a Syrian Christian choir, school kids to senior citizens, electronica to poets. Watch here.