Tod Machover’s visionary opera Schoenberg in Hollywood, will have its European Premiere at the Vienna Volksoper on April 4, with performances through April 16. The opera was inspired by the life of Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg following his departure from Hitler’s Europe to Los Angeles in the 1930s. It was commissioned and presented by Boston Lyric Opera and had its hugely successful world premiere in Boston in November 2018. Schoenberg in Hollywood was praised as “ingeniously original” by The Wall Street Journal; “dark and brilliant” by the Boston Classical Review; “emotionally engaging…Machover’s lyrical gift was allowed to flow” by Musical America; and “a composer biography like no other” by The Boston Globe.
“Schoenberg is a towering figure in music, a great visionary who incorporated so many things into his work that we are just beginning to understand its full impact,” Machover said. “I am intrigued with the idea of what happened when Schoenberg – the ultimate uncompromising futurist who was also a wonderful teacher and inventor – wound up in the center of L.A.’s film world. He struggled with how to combine art with entertainment, reflection with action, and tradition with revolution, and that’s at the heart of the opera.”
In Vienna, the opera will be performed in English with German surtitles to accompany the witty libretto by British novelist/actor Simon Robson, based on a scenario by Braham Murray. This all-new Volksoper production will be directed by Helen Malkowsky, with design and video by Sophie Lux and innovative audio technology from Machover and the MIT Media Lab. Performances will take place in the historic Kasino, which – by coincidence – is right across the street from the Arnold Schoenberg Center, where Schoenberg’s archives are maintained and where a pre-concert talk will be given by Volksoper dramaturg Magdalena Hoisbauer before each show.
Machover’s Schoenberg in Hollywood reinterprets the composer as one of the most deeply relevant figures for our time and for the future, in surprising, comical, and powerful ways. At its 2018 premiere, the Boston Music Intelligencer wrote: “Schoenberg would smile.” Of the upcoming Volksoper production, Tod Machover writes: “I am so pleased that Vienna is the first place that this opera will travel after its Boston premiere, a great way for Schoenberg to be welcomed back home. I bet he would have smiled at that as well!”
City Symphonies Around the World
Tod Machover’s ongoing series of collaborative “City Symphonies” continues to flourish and grow in cities around the world. For each symphony, Machover invites people of all ages and backgrounds in the chosen city to work with him and his MIT Media Lab team – using specially designed online tools, smartphone apps, and public workshops and forums – to create a musical portrait of their city, combining “normal” musical resources with sounds and stories discovered and collected in that place. Incorporating collected field recordings, material developed in workshops throughout the city, and contributions from local musicians—including original pieces created by middle-school students with Machover’s graphic composing software Hyperscore—the result becomes a comprehensive musical portrait of the city. In the process, Machover has developed a new participatory mode of composition that he has now brought to different cities around the world.Since 2013, he has written works in this series for and with the cities of Toronto, Edinburgh, Perth (Australia), Lucerne (Switzerland), Detroit, and Philadelphia.
A Toronto Symphony at MIT
On March 13, Machover presents the U.S. premiere of an updated version of his very first City Symphony for Toronto – A Toronto Symphony – with the MIT Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Evan Ziporyn. This is the first of Machover’s City Symphonies to be performed in a city other than the one for which it was written, extending the life and scope of the work beyond its original geographical origin. In that spirit and especially for this performance, Machover has collaborated with MIT students in the orchestra to create a new section of the symphony that Machover describes as “Cambridge reacts to Toronto.” Machover is Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music and Media at the MIT Media Lab, where he is also Academic Head and Director of the Lab's Opera of the Future group. He is especially pleased that this new iteration of A Toronto Symphony will take place at MIT.
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Article: A Toronto Symphony, Tod Machover’s Participatory Orchestral Opera
City Symphony for 2020 Dubai World Expo
Tod Machover’s next City Symphony, for Dubai, has been commissioned by DP World for the 2020 Dubai World Expo, a six-month celebration of culture, collaboration and innovation that will run from October 2020 to April 2021 in Dubai. Machover’s interactive work, titled Flow Symphony, will explore the worldwide movement of goods, people, cultures and ideas. The symphony will be an integral and ongoing part of DP World’s Expo pavilion, audible throughout the pavilion’s massive building, and culminating in a monumental atrium. The public will be able to shape the “flow” of the symphony and add to it throughout the six-month event. A performance of the final version of the symphony, which will have evolved over the course of six months, is scheduled as part of the Expo closing ceremonies in April 2021.
TA Futures in Chennai, India
Tod Machover is also working on a new project in Chennai, India, TA Futures. The project, based on the City Symphony model, is a collaboration with the award-winning Indian film composer A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire, etc.), who is known for integrating Eastern classical music with electronic sounds, world music genres and traditional orchestral arrangements. This project is about the relationship between ancient unbroken traditions of South India and the youthful spirit found today in Chennai that is ready to engage the future with hope, optimism and creativity. TA Futures launched at a special live-streamed performance in January 2020, held at Rahman’s YM Film Studio just outside of Chennai. Versions of TA Futures will be rolled out over the next 18 months, with culminating performances planned for fall 2021.
K Symphony for the Koreas
Tod Machover and the MIT Media Lab’s Opera of the Future Group are also working on K Symphony, a groundbreaking new project in collaboration with citizens of North and South Korea. Through partnership with the Lindenbaum orchestra and festival, a South Korean organization dedicated to bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula through music, Machover and the MIT Media Lab’s Opera of the Future Group will welcome musicians from both Koreas to engage in long-term creative ventures—as well as live performances—of K Symphony, all on the subject of how to build peace and break down borders during a time of increasing tension and isolation worldwide. Launch events for K Symphony were held in the Korean Demilitarized Zone as well as on Jeju Island during August 2019, with premiere performances and a global tour planned for the 2021-2022.
Called “America’s most wired composer” by The Los Angeles Times and a “musical visionary” by The New York Times, Tod Machover is recognized as one of the most innovative composers active today, and is celebrated for inventing new technologies that expand music’s potential for everyone, from celebrated virtuosi to musicians of all abilities. 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 is Academic Head of the MIT Media Lab (Cambridge USA), where he is also Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music and Media and Director of the Opera of the Future Group. Machover is also Visiting Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London, and Visiting Professor of Composition at the Curtis Institute of Music.
Machover is especially known for his visionary operas. His most recent opera, Schoenberg in Hollywood, was commissioned and presented by Boston Lyric Opera and had its hugely successful world premiere in Boston in November 2018. Another production, by the prestigious Volksoper Wien in Vienna, is scheduled for April, 2020.
Machover’s previous operatic works – as varied as they have been groundbreaking – include VALIS (1987), based on Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi classic and commissioned by the Centre Pompidou in Paris; Media/Medium (1994), premiered by magicians Penn & Teller; Brain Opera (1996/8), which invites the audience to collaborate live and online; Resurrection (1999), commissioned by Houston Grand Opera and based on Tolstoy’s final novel of the same name; Skellig (2008), based on David Almond’s award-winning novel and premiered at the Sage Gateshead; and the “robotic” Death and the Powers, which premiered in Monaco during the 2010-2011 season at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo under the patronage of Prince Albert II, and has since been performed in Boston, Chicago, and at The Dallas Opera, where, in February 2014, it received the world’s first international, interactive simulcast using specially developed technologies to allow viewers to interact with the performance onstage through smartphones, tablets, and other portable electronic devices. Death and the Powers was also Finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music, and has been released for worldwide distribution on Blu-Ray disc. A CD recording of Death and the Powers is scheduled to be released during the 2019-2020 season by BMOP Sound.
In a wholly original and flourishing series of collaborative “City Symphonies,” Machover invites people of all ages and backgrounds to work with him – using specially designed online tools, smartphone apps, and public workshops and forums – to create a musical portrait of their city, by combining “normal” musical resources with sounds discovered and collected in that place. He has written works in this series for and with the cities of Toronto, Edinburgh, Perth (Australia), Lucerne (Switzerland), Detroit, and Philadelphia.
In 2018, the most recent “City Symphony,” Philadelphia Voices, made its widely-acclaimed world premiere with Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting the celebrated Philadelphia Orchestra and hundreds of singers from all over Philadelphia, and went on to its New York debut at Carnegie Hall (the first City Symphony to be played outside its city of origin). Machover’s earlier Eine Sinfonie für Luzern debuted to great critical acclaim at the Lucerne Festival in 2015, where he served as the 2015 Composer in Residence. Later that year, it was also in Lucerne that Machover debuted Symphony in D, described by Hyperallergic as “a cacophonous love letter to Detroit,” with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Slatkin. Subsequently, a documentary by Dennis Scholl and Marlon Johnson, which had documented the process of making Symphony in D, debuted at the Miami Film Festival in March 2017 before winning an Emmy as best Cultural Documentary (Michigan chapter).
Tod Machover's compositions have been commissioned and performed by many of the world's most prestigious ensembles and soloists, including Opera America, Philadelphia Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble InterContemporain, Ensemble Modern, BBC Scottish Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, 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, Ars Electronica, Casa da Musica (Porto), American Composers Orchestra, Tokyo String Quartet, Kronos Quartet, Ying Quartet, Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Kim Kashkashian, Carol Wincenc, Matt Haimovitz, and many more. His work has been awarded numerous prizes and honors, by such illustrious institutions as the American Academy of Arts and Letters, 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 2010 he received the Arts Prize from the World Technology Network (CNN/Time Inc.), and the Raymond Kurzweil Prize for Music and Technology. He was the first recipient of the Arts Advocacy Award from the Kennedy Center’s National Committee of the Performing Arts in September 2013, and he was honored as Musical America’s 2016 Composer of the Year.
Tod Machover is renowned for designing new technologies for music performance and creation, such as Hyperinstruments, “smart” performance systems that extend expression for virtuosi, from Yo-Yo Ma to Prince, as well as for the general public. The popular video games Guitar Hero and Rock Band grew out of Machover’s Lab. His Hyperscore software—which allows anyone to compose original music using lines and colors—has enabled children around the world to have their music performed by major orchestras, chamber music ensembles, and rock bands. Recently, the globally-renowned Kronos Quartet – as a part of its initiative 50 for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire, a commissioning and education project in partnership with Carnegie Hall and others – performed the first public performance of Machover’s GAMMIFIED. Using cutting-edge research from the MIT Media Lab, the piece for string quartet and electronics features compositional-
Tod 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 and on Spotify.