Music, Mastery, and Memory

Wednesday, 8 December 2010 - 5:00pm6:30pm

Rainey Auditorium, Penn Museum, 3260 South Street

Music, Mastery, and Memory

Tod Machover

Professor of Music and Media
MIT Media Lab

Music exerts a powerful force over our minds and bodies, engaging us at least as fully as any other human activity. Yet, due to perceived lack of talent or expertise, many are excluded from performing or creating music themselves. Tod Machover, “America’s most wired composer,” will describe how the doors to musical expression are being opened by new tools and technologies, from animated operas to virtuosity simulators like Guitar Hero to medical devices that use music for rehabilitation.

Tod Machover is widely recognized as one of the most important and innovative composers of his generation, as well as one of the primary contributors to future music technology. He has received numerous honors for his work, including a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government and, most recently, the first Ray Kurzweil Prize for music and technology.

His latest work, a new opera, Death and The Powers, premiered in Monaco in September 2010. Produced in collaboration with the American Repertory Theater, with an original libretto by U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky, Death and The Powers is directed by Diane Paulus.

Machover has designed and built Hyperinstruments—a field he founded to augment musical expression using smart computers—for the most diverse musical performers and situations, such as Yo-Yo Ma, Prince, the Boston Pops, and Disney's Epcot Center. He has composed other operas, including the science fiction VALIS (based on Philip K. Dick's novel), Resurrection (based on Tolstoy's last novel), and the audience-interactive Brain Opera, now permanently installed at Vienna's House of Music. One recent project, Toy Symphony, used specially designed hi-tech music toys to introduce children to musical creativity in radically new ways, enabling them to collaborate with world-class orchestras and soloists in high visibility concerts.

Machover studied at The Juilliard School with Elliott Carter and Roger Sessions, and was Director of Musical Research at Pierre Boulez's IRCAM in Paris. He is currently Professor of Music & Media at the MIT Media Lab, and has also been Visiting Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Poster image detail: "Evvy and the Chandelier" from Tod Machover's Death and the Powers. Image conceived by Alex McDowell. Illustration: Christian Robert de Massy/Vlad Bina.