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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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New symphony features the sounds of Toronto

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Tod Machover

Classical music composer Tod Machover has created a most unusual gift for Toronto residents.

As part of this week’s annual Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s New Creations Festival, Machover worked with some 10,000 collaborators for almost 15 months via the Internet to create A Toronto Symphony: Concerto For Composer And City, which will have its world premiere March 9 at Roy Thomson Hall.

Torontonians collaborated with Machover and the TSO by blog and email, Skype and smartphone, using audio and video recording and streaming, and through numerous face-to-face meetings and music-making sessions in the city.

“I love collaboration. Music should be central in people’s lives. Today, music is often an afterthought as background to riding the elevator or shopping at a mall. So, the idea of collaborating with Torontonians to create a symphony interested me, both because I thought it would lead to a diverse and timely musical portrait of this wonderful city, and also because I felt that it would propose a new model for people with diverse musical backgrounds and experience to work together towards a common goal,” said Machover, 59.

“We embarked on an adventure that has led me to new sounds, new friendships, new discoveries about Toronto, and new ideas about musical storytelling. When I started the project, my hope was to convey how the incredible diversity of Toronto is wrapped in a beautiful and unified connectivity. The audience will hear and also see the sounds of Toronto on the subway, in the parks and streets, dancing and walking, to create the beautiful mosaic of ethnic groups that make up Toronto.”

To add to the excitement of the world premiere of A Toronto Symphony: Concerto For Composer and City, the CN Tower will feature a customized light show synchronized with the music to be heard at Roy Thomson Hall.

“Our city needs a symphony of our own, and it was due to Tod’s vision and the thousands of collaborators in Toronto, [that we could] create a music composition that will make us all proud,” said TSO music director Peter Oundjian, who will conduct the new composition.

Machover is widely regarded in music circles not only for his imaginative compositions, but for being a leader in music technology as well – his mother is a pianist and his father is a computer scientist. The composer has created new instruments to augment the sound of traditional instruments, including the hypercello, hyperpiano, hyperviolin and hyperscores, all invented by him at the Massachusetts Institute Of Technology in 1986.

“The hyper instruments involve computers that augment and enhance the sound. The result is that the cello not only has a rich and vibrant sound, but could be accessed in the musical spectrum to also sound like other instruments. I am also proud of hyperscores, which is a visual device that can help novices compose music.”

Machover’s innovative technologies and approaches to composing music have made him a sought-after collaborator.

He created an opera titled Death And The Power, featuring singers, visual screens and robots that enhanced the music. The 2010 opera debuted in Chicago and was praised by opera fans for its innovations.

Machover has also worked on creating new composition for cellist Yo Yo Ma and violinist Joshua Bell among other artists, and he was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music.

He hopes to visit Israel soon. “I am very proud of my Jewish roots and want to go to Israel and perhaps work with the many gifted musicians there,” he said.

Tod Machover’s A Toronto Symphony: Concert For Composer And City, has its world premiere March 9, 8 p.m., at Roy Thomson Hall in downtown Toronto. Also on the same program on the final night of the TSO New Creations Festival will be Four Angels, composed by Andrew Staniland, and Steven Mackey’s Four Iconoclastic Episodes. For tickets, call 416-593-4828 or go to www.tso.ca.

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