Tod Machover

Professor of Music & Media, MIT Media Lab
Cambridge, MA, United States

About Tod

Bio

Tod Machover – called “America’s Most Wired Composer” by The Los Angeles Times – is widely recognized as one of the most significant and innovative composers of his generation, and is also celebrated for inventing new technology for music, including Hyperinstruments which he launched in 1986. 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 has been Professor of Music and Media at the MIT Media Lab (Cambridge, USA) since it was founded in 1985, and is currently launching a major new “Music, Mind & Health” initiative there. Machover is also the inventor of Hyperscore and Co-Founder and Chairman of Harmony Line Inc. (www.hyperscore.com and www.h-lounge-com), a Boston-based company devoted to developing musical tools and techniques to extend creative music-making to everyone.

Tod Machover’s music has been noted for breaking traditional artistic and cultural boundaries, offering a unique and innovative synthesis of acoustic and electronic sound, of symphony orchestras and interactive computers, and of operatic arias and rock songs. Machover’s compositions have been commissioned and performed by many of the world’s most prestigious ensembles and soloists, including the Ensemble InterContemporain, the London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Modern, Speculum Musicae, BBC Scottish Symphony, 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 Kashkahian, David Starobin, Matt Haimovitz, and many more. His work has been awarded numerous prizes and honors, among others from from 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.

Machover has been particularly noted for his operatic compositions, which include: VALIS (1987), a science fiction opera – called ‘the first opera of the 21st century” by The New York Times – commissioned for the tenth anniversary of the Centre Georges Pompidou; Media/Medium (1994), a “magic” opera for magicians Penn & Teller; the audience-interactive Brain Opera (1996/8), commissioned for the first Lincoln Center Festival, toured worldwide, and permanently installed at the Haus der Musik in Vienna since 2000; and Resurrection (1999), based on Tolstoy’s last novel and commissioned by Houston Grand Opera. In addition, Machover has created numerous large-scale music installations for the general public, including the building-size underground art experience Meteorite (2000-2005) in Essen, Germany, a collaboration with media entrepreneur Andre Heller. He is currently working on two new operas: Death and the Powers, a “robotic” opera with an original libretto by U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky, and Skellig, based on the award-winning novel by David Almond.

Tod Machover has invented many new technologies for music, most notably his Hyperinstruments that use smart computers to augment musical expression and creativity. He has designed these hyperinstruments for some of the world’s greatest musicians, from Yo-Yo Ma to Prince, as well as for the general public and for children, as in his Toy Symphony project (www.toysymphony.net) – called “a vast, celebratory ode to the joy of music and its power to bring young and old together, diversity into unity (Boston Globe)” – which has been touring worldwide since 2002. Machover’s Hyperinstrument research has long been supported by major companies such as Yamaha, and several of his Music Toys have recently been made commercially available by Fisher-Price and others. In addition, his music composition software Hyperscore – originally developed for children in the context of Toy Symphony – is fast gaining worldwide recognition as a popular creative tool for people of all ages and backgrounds. In awarding Machover the first Kurzweil Prize in Music and Technology in 2003, celebrated inventor and entrepreneur Raymond Kurzweil wrote: “Tod Machover is the only person I am aware of who contributes on a world-class level to both the technology of music creation and to music itself. Even within these two distinct areas, his contributions are remarkably diverse, and of exquisite quality.”

In Fall 2007, Machover was awarded the Steinmetz Prize from Union College and the IEEE, and his latest composition, VinylCello for hypercello and DJ, was released on the Oxingale label, performed by cellist Matt Haimovitz, who commissioned the work.

TED Conference

TED2008