Composer | Public Relations
2018-2019 Biography

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, and the 2018-19 season sees the world premiere of his new opera, Schoenberg in Hollywood, commissioned and presented by Boston Lyric Opera. Opening in November 2018, Schoenberg in Hollywood drawsinspiration from the life of Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg following his exile from Hitler’s Europe to Los Angeles in the 1930s. Introduced by Harpo Marx to MGM’s Irving Thalberg, what would have happened if Schoenberg had accepted Thalberg’s offer to write the score for the blockbuster film, The Good Earth, using it as a vehicle to reach millions with a vision of artistic complexity, spiritual unity, and political action? 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. Braham Murray directs the production which features Omar Ebrahim (Schoenberg), Sara Womble (Girl) and Jesse Darden (Boy).

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, was called “the first opera of the 21st century” by the Boston Globe; 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.

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.  In April 2018, Machover’s latest addition to the series, 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; shortly following its dynamic opening performances, Philadelphia Voices traveled to Carnegie Hall where it debuted for New York audiences, marking the first occasion in which a City Symphony was played outside its city of origin. In September 2015, Machover’s Eine Sinfonie für Luzern debuted to high critical acclaim at the Lucerne Festival, where he served as the 2015 Composer in Residence, and the following November, he debuted Symphony in D, described by Hyperallergic as “a cacophonous love letter to Detroit…extremely powerful,” with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Slatkin. Subsequently, a documentary by Dennis Scholl and Marlon Johnson, which followed 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). Other City Symphonies have included Toronto, Edinburgh, Perth (Australia), and Miami, and Machover is working with Boston’s new HUBweek Festival to create the largest project yet for that city. He and his MIT Media Lab team are also transposing the City Symphony model to the “country” level, working on a project designed to promote communication and collaboration between South and North Korea, including a launch event in the Demilitarized Zone in August 2018.

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.  

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.

In addition to a new series of City Symphonies currently in development, Tod Machover is also currently working on a composition for the Kronos Quartet as part of their Fifty for the Future commissioning series with Carnegie Hall, as well as 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. Machover is also working with his team at the MIT Media Lab to develop a new generation of multisensory experiences to diagnose and improve a range of brain ailments – from Alzheimer’s to depression – and to promote general mental wellbeing.  




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