Tod Machover, composer, inventor and MIT Media Lab Professor, has been named Lucerne Festival’s 2015 Composer in Residence

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Named Lucerne Festival’s 2015 Composer in Residence

Vocal Vibrations Installation to Launch at Le Laboratoire Cambridge

World Premiere of Flute Concerto, Breathless



Tod Machover, composer, inventor and MIT Media Lab Professor, has been named Lucerne Festival’s 2015 Composer in Residence. As he has done for the cities of Perth, Edinburgh and Toronto, Machover will compose a collaborative symphony for the city of Lucerne to capture its life, spirit and culture in music. Beginning August 20, 2014 Machover will be in Lucerne for ten days exploring the energy of the city and gathering sounds and musical ideas submitted by the residents of Lucerne that define the city’s unique qualities and traditions. Recordings of conversation in a bustling café, the sound of water from Lake Lucerne or the many rivers that run through town, a factory or boat whistle, glasses clinking in a pub and children playing in a park, are some of the sounds that might be woven into a musical tapestry to create A Symphony for Lucerne.” This musical portrait of Lucerne receives its world premiere September 5, 2015, conducted by Matthias Pintscher.

Although the process of creating this collaborative symphony for Lucerne is in its earliest stage, Machover is capturing some of Lucerne’s most unique characteristics through sound. He explains Lucerne as “a kind of oasis, a quiet, almost-perfect city where the most delicate sounds – water lapping on the lakeshore, footsteps reverberating in covered wooden bridges, birds whispering rather than shouting, music from orchestras, traveling choirs, buskers and boom boxes all intertwining – are unburdened by traffic or crowd noise, creating a kind of idealized chamber music. In addition, Lucerne has a unique position at the center of Switzerland, and has always been a place of refuge, tolerance, and reflection. Hopefully these qualities will be reflected in our finished symphony.” Tod Machover explains the project further in this video made by Lucerne Festival.

As part of this prestigious residency, Machover has been commissioned by Lucerne Festival for a host of additional projects and compositions to be announced at a later date. The making of a “Symphony for Lucerne” will be filmed as a behind-the-scenes documentary by Lucerne Festival and shown in connection with the world premiere.

Technology for Lucerne

Special technologies developed by Machover and his Opera of the Future team at the MIT Media Lab will allow people of all ages to contribute to and help shape “A Symphony for Lucerne.” The Constellation app is web-based and allows anyone to hear the latest sounds collected and to combine them into personalized mixes. To view the Constellation app, please follow the link provided by clicking the image.

Still in the development phase, a mobile app designed especially for the “Symphony for Lucerne” project will allow any sound to be recorded and then geographically “tagged” via mobile device, creating an evolving “sound map” of Lucerne and surroundings. This mobile app will be available through the Apple App Store and Google Play in the fall of 2014.

A separate computer software program, Hyperscore, allows young people to compose their own musical portraits of Lucerne by drawing and painting with lines and colors which Machover can then translate into orchestral impressions. Hyperscore is available for download via

Yet another web-based app, Media Scores uses a similar drawing-painting interface to allow the community to shape whole sections of the finished composition, from phrases to movements to the overall musical journey.


Vocal Vibrations, an interactive sound installation by Tod Machover and his team at the MIT Media Lab, is a voice and body experiment examining the relationship between human physiology and resonant vibrations of the voice. In collaboration with Buddhist monk Tenzin Priyadarshi, Founder and Director of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT, and a group of scientists and health professionals, the project seeks to expand upon recent medical findings that prove changes in regional cerebral blood flow occur during chanting and meditation practice. The goal is to explore the hypothesis that the human singing voice can produce a positive effect on stress, anxiety and chronic pain, and to develop a new form of meditation, reflection and aesthetic satisfaction for the future.

Visitors first enter a group meditative chamber where they listen to Tod Machover’s 10-channel “Chapel” composition based on vocal recordings by soprano Sara Heaton and the Blue Heron Choir, directed by Scott Metcalfe. Centered on a single meditative tone, Machover’s music blends voices with other sources to create a wide variety of textures and timbres that prepare the listener for the next sonic journey: the oRb Tunnel. The Tunnel leads to an intimate room containing a sensorial “cocoon,” which closes around the participant as they hold an object called the oRb, a magical ceramic sphere created by Machover and his students at the MIT Media Lab. For six minutes, the visitor chants while listening to Machover’s composition. As the participant responds to the music, the oRb subtly vibrates in tandem with his or her vocalizations creating both an audio and sensorial experience. Click here to listen to an excerpt from the Chapel, accompanied by images from the installation.

Machover explains, “With Vocal Vibrations, we have tried to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable using their singing voice, not in an extroverted karaoke-style way, but as a means for inner exploration and connecting with others. By concentrating on a single tone in the midst of complex counterpoint and textures, and by feeling the subtle effects that the voice’s vibrations cause in our bodies and minds, we have tried to create a new kind of experience that combines singing, listening, sensing, observing and thinking in a profoundly satisfying way.”

The original installation of Vocal Vibrations is currently taking place in Paris at the Le Laboratoire March 28 – September 29, 2014. Thousands of people have already visited the Paris installation, some spending several hours to immerse themselves in the “Chapel” music, and with many trying the “Cocoon-oRb” experience multiple times. Approximately one hundred people participated in a special study conducted by the Media Lab, in which initial findings – measured by specially designed audio and physical sensors – demonstrate very encouraging effects, such as reduction in blood pressure and general tension, slowing of heart rate, acute awareness of what one is hearing and increased perception of the physical vibrations produced throughout the body by one’s own voice.

Vocal Vibrations comes to Boston’s new Le Laboratoire Cambridge with a designated VIP event scheduled for October 30 and opening to the general public October 31.

Opening fall 2014 in Kendall Square, Le Laboratoire Cambridge will be a unique art and design center where cultural experiments at frontiers of science engage the public through biannual exhibitions. Founded in Paris in 2007 by Harvard professor and inventor David Edwards, Le Laboratoire brings to Cambridge rich artscience experimentation, exciting programs of innovation learning, and a deep commitment to social change through sensorial design, as expressed in the new innovation restaurant Cafe ArtScience.

For more information on Vocal Vibrations, please visit


A DVD of Dallas Opera’s highly successful 2014 production of Tod Machover’s robotic opera, Death and the Powers, is currently in the making. This technologically groundbreaking production marked the first-ever global interactive simulcast of an opera and was broadcast to nine locations worldwide. Through a mobile app conceived by Machover and his MIT team, remote audience members were able to take part in the production in real time to influence certain electronic elements in the opera, to receive additional multimedia content flashed to their mobile device and to modify the physical behavior of certain scenic elements – such as the spectacular Moody Family Chandelier – within Dallas Opera’s Winspear Opera House.

Death and the Powers received its world premiere September 24, 2010 at L’Opéra de Monte-Carlo – Salle Garnier. In addition to the Dallas Opera production, Machover’s opera has been performed at Chicago Opera Theater and in a joint production with Harvard’s American Repertory Theater and Opera Boston. The work was named a 2012 Pulitzer Prize Finalist in Music for both its score and the innovative technology created by Machover and his Opera of the Future Group at the MIT Media Lab.


On Sunday, November 9, 2014 Tod Machover’s flute concerto, Breathless, commissioned by the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra receives its world premiere performed by Carol Wincenc and conducted by Beverly Everett. This marks Machover’s latest collaboration with Ms. Wincenc, a GRAMMY-nominated recording artist and Diapson d’Or Award recipient. Machover says, “Breathless is an homage to a long, lovely friendship with Carol. I first met her the summer before my senior year in high school at the Aspen Music Festival and School where I was studying cello and working in the electronic music studio. Breathless recalls some of the experimental music – classical and pop – that I was interested in as a 16-year old. The solo flute leads us on quite a journey – with pure tone, breathiness of all sorts, electronic extensions and orchestral commentary – through musical memory and possibility.”


Tod Machover, called “America’s most wired composer” by The Los Angeles Times, is recognized as one of the most innovative composers of his generation, and celebrated for inventing new technologies for music. 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 the Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music and Media at the MIT Media Lab (Cambridge USA) and Director of its Opera of the Future Group. Machover is also Visiting Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Machover is especially known for his visionary operas, including VALIS (based on Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi classic and commissioned by the Centre Pompidou in Paris); Brain Opera (which invites the audience to collaborate live and online); Skellig (based on David Almond’s award-winning novel and premiered at the Sage Gateshead in 2008); 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. Death and the Powers was also Finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music.

On March 1, 2014, the Perth International Arts Festival premiered Machover’s Between the Desert and the Deep Blue Sea: A Symphony for Perth as the festival finale. The third (after Toronto and Edinburgh) in a growing series of “collaborative city symphonies,” Machover invited people of all ages and backgrounds to work with him – using specially designed online tools – to create a musical portrait of the place where they live. New collaborative symphonies are being created for and with Lucerne, Switzerland and Detroit, and are being discussed with various other international locations.

Tod Machover’s compositions have been commissioned and performed by many of the world’s most prestigious ensembles and soloists, including Opera America, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble InterContemporain, Ensemble Modern, 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 Kashkashian, Matt Haimovitz, and many more. His work has been awarded numerous prizes and honors, among others from 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.

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 videogames 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.

© 2014 Kirshbaum Demler & Associates


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