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. Schoenberg in Hollywood was praised as “ingeniously original” by The Wall Street Journal; “dark and brilliant” by the Boston Classical Review; and“musically eclectic” by New Criterion. 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. With a brilliantly witty libretto by British novelist/actor Simon Robson and innovative sound and image technologies from the MIT Media Lab, this opera reinterprets Schoenberg as one of the most deeply relevant figures for our time and for the future, in surprising, comical, and powerful ways.
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 in a future 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. Over the coming seasons, Machover and the MIT Media Lab’s Opera of the Future Group will be working on Symphony for the Koreas, 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 Symphony for the Koreas. The final performance is expected to take place at or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone with a subsequent global tour. Future “City Symphonies” are also planned for Chennai (Madras) in India, Boston and the 2020 World Expo in Dubai.
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, acommissioning and education project in partnership with Carnegie Hall and others–performed the first public performance of Machover’s GAMMIFIED. Usingcutting-edge research from the MIT Media Lab, the piece for string quartet and electronics features compositional-embedded Gamma frequencies, which have begun to show highly promising results for resynching the brain, promoting mental well-being, and reversing the symptoms Alzheimer’s disease. Machover is also working on a new symphony for conductor Kent Nagano and the Montréal Symphony Orchestra that will use specially designed Augmented Reality technologies to allow each audience member to “excavate” sonic layers of the performance in personal ways.
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.
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