The Toronto Symphony Orchestra New Creations Festival and the MIT Media Lab present

A Toronto Symphony

Concerto for Composer and City

by Tod Machover and the City of Toronto

Check them out: Toronto kids compose!

Hundreds of children from Toronto’s schools responded to our call for original musical compositions about their city. These were composed using Hyperscore, under the skillful mentorship of an extraordinary group of music teachers. We have posted a few here. Give them a listen!

Weekend Highlight – Glenn Gould Variations

Tod's cello

This weekend, Tod will join 50 other presenters (from Robert Wilson to Atom Egoyan to Lang Lang!) at the University of Toronto’s Convocation Hall for an extraordinary gathering of “Dreamers Renegades Visionaries” to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the iconoclastic pianist and boundary breaker’s birth. Check out this terrific article about the event in Whole Note (“Spinning Gould – 30 years after”).

Tod is scheduled to speak and perform at 5pm on Saturday, the 22nd. He posted this photo on Facebook this morning and gave a hint about what he’ll be presenting:

Here is my cello resting this morning in our barn outside of Boston, preparing to travel to Toronto tomorrow for the big Gould event. I’ll be playing the solo cello (something I don’t do often these days, but am happy to do to pay homage to Gould) to “shed a light” on – and make connections between – shards of music hidden in hundreds of sound images sent from Toronto as part of my A Toronto Symphony project…I promise it will be unusual:)

Here’s a teaser from Tod’s montage of sounds of Toronto -

How We’ll Use Your Sounds of Toronto

A new message from Tod Machover - 

Over the past few months, you have been collecting sounds from all over Toronto, and now we’re nearing the time for me to explain how these sounds will form the concerto.

So far, I’ve thought of a couple of ways to incorporate these sounds into the final piece.  First, it’s possible that the sounds you recorded and sent in will be directly incorporated into the piece.  However, this has been done before, such as by the revolutionary composer John Cage.  What will be more common for this project and also a much newer musical idea is the practice of taking these sounds and playing them with traditional instruments found in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.  By breaking down the sounds and interpreting them musically together, we’ll be able to closely relate these urban sounds in a much more classical way.

I experimented with this before while composing another opera of mine, “Skellig”, but accomplishing this transformation of sounds on this scale will require quite a lot of playing around with music and reflecting on what does and does not work.  This is where you come in, as your help in listening to and tweaking these interpretations will be necessary in order to attain the most accurate reflections of the city.  I can’t wait to move forward on the project with you and bring these collections of sounds to life.

Yours, Tod

Click here to listen to excerpts from the opera “Skellig.”

“Launch Music” for A Toronto Symphony (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1…

With chords in hand, I contacted Jeff Beecher, bass player in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and co-chair of the musician’s committee, to see if he and some of his colleagues would be interested in working with this initial chord progression for our first collaboration. Jeff was willing, found eight other players who also wanted to participate (2 violins, viola, cello, Jeff on bass, bassoon, french horn and clarinet), and we were off.

Tod and TSO players at ideacity

I sent them the chord progression and asked if they would augment and modify what I had written, by adding new chords, writing melodies to my chords, and/or proposing sounds suggested by my chords. All eight of them got back to me within a few days with a wealth of remarkable music including quirky melodies, jaunty and sometimes jagged rhythms, and some quite unusual sounds. It was a very pleasant surprise that they responded, and even a better surprise that what they send back was so interesting and so unexpected. Continue reading

Next task: A Toronto Sound that’s unique and original

Thanks to all who sent suggestions and audio recordings in response to my first challenge. Quite a few people mentioned the three-tone Toronto subway chime as a signature sound of the city. Listen:

Now I’d love it if people would really open their ears, stretch their imaginations and think of a sound that’s both unique and unusual, something no one else will have thought of. Can you send it to me by next Wednesday? Once we have enough sounds, I’ll schedule a live Twitter session to talk about the sounds and answer your questions!

- Tod

Your Sounds: Sam at Yonge-Dundas Square

Sam’s contribution to “A Toronto Symphony: Concerto for Composer and City” is the soundscape at Yonge-Dundas Square. You too can send us your soundscapes of Toronto. Post a video on YouTube, capture sounds on your cellphone and upload the mp3 to Soundcloud, YouTube or direct to Facebook, and share the links via our Facebook page! Tweet it to @ComposerCity and we’ll share your #SoundsofToronto far and wide. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need technical help finding your way around all this social media technology.