At MIT's Media Lab, Tod Machover creates boundary-breaking new music, often using new instruments and music technologies he has invented.

Why you should listen

Tod Machover is head of the MIT Media Lab's Hyperinstruments/Opera of the Future group. He has composed five operas and helped to develop many groundbeaking musical technologies -- including Hyperinstruments, a technology that augments musical expression for both virtuosi (from Yo-Yo Ma to Prince) and amateurs, and Hyperscore, software that allows anyone to create sophisticated, original music by using lines and colors. Many of Machover's principles about "active participation" in music are exemplified in Guitar Hero, which grew out of his lab.

Among his current projects is a new opera, Death and the Powers, complete with a musical chandelier, animatronic walls, and an army of robots. Death and the Powers premieres in Monaco in September 2009.

A recent focus of Machover's group has been on Music, Mind and Health, which marshals the power of music to promote well-being. Working with long-term patients at facilities such as Tewksbury Hospital, north of Boston, the group's goal is to develop personal musical activities that adapt to the particular skills and needs of each individual. In this way, the path to health becomes as rewarding as learning an instrument, composing a symphony, or premiering at Carnegie Hall.

What others say

“He 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, Tod's contributions are remarkably diverse, and of exquisite quality.” — Ray Kurzweil

Tod Machover’s TED talks

Tod Machover on the TED Blog
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Music

TEDTalks' own guitar heroes

August 3, 2008

TEDTalks fan Stefan Kreitmayer was watching Tod Machover — whose lab at MIT developed the tech behind Guitar Hero — when he noticed an interesting coincidence and took a screenshot. Wondering what to watch next? How about these guitar heroes: (Links for these talks: Craig Venter … Freeman Dyson … Kwabena Boahen … the Theme […]

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Wii Remote + wheelchair: Digital Wheel Art

June 6, 2008

Cross the Wii hacking of Johnny Lee with the creativity tools of Tod Machover, and you get Digital Wheel Art — a wheelchair that uses a hacked Wii Remote to help disabled people make paintings. As Gizmodo reports, inventor YoungHyun Chung showed off the device at the Maker Faire in NYC last night. Watch the […]

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Music

Playing the music in your head: Tod Machover & Dan Ellsey on TED.com

April 15, 2008

Tod Machover of MIT’s Media Lab invented the musical technology behind Guitar Hero, and here he talks about what’s coming next. Listen for some brand-new ways to interface with music — to play it, compose it, enjoy it. Machover then introduces Dan Ellsey, a composer with cerebral palsy who uses some new tools to write […]

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Quotes from Tod Machover