Sounds of Toronto – People at Work & Play

Whether they’re sealing a deal at the market or expressing their feelings at a Blue Jays game, people make a lot of noise!! Which ones are indelibly part of Toronto’s cityscape? Wherever you find yourself today, take a moment to record the sound, or if technology is not your thing, just tell us about it using the Comments section. Provide the location and time, and we’ll send an intern out to record it for you.

Share your sounds of Toronto on our Facebook page or SoundcloudDeadline: August 10, 2012 – because we will be incorporating your sounds into an exciting activity that takes place August 11-12 at the ALL CAPS! Island Festival. Contact Rachel McDermott <> if you need technical assistance. Thanks!

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.”

Sounds of Toronto – Nature

We’re in our final week of sound collecting, so don’t procrastinate!

Amid the concrete, machines and urban bustle of the city, Nature’s voice makes itself heard too. Do the cries of birds and hum of insects provide an aural backdrop to your neighborhood? Are there locations marked by a particular way in which the wind whistles or water splashes? Which sounds of Nature need to be part of A Toronto Symphony?

Grab your smartphone, digital camera or recorder and capture the sound. Or describe it in writing using the Comments section. Include the location and time, and we’ll send someone to record the sound. Save your sound/video file and share it on our Facebook page or SoundcloudDeadline: August 10, 2012 – because we will be incorporating your sounds into an exciting activity that takes place August 11-12 at the ALL CAPS! Island Festival. Contact Rachel McDermott <> if you need technical assistance. Thanks!

Join us at the ALL CAPS! Island Festival August 11-12

Tod will be attending the  ALL CAPS! Island Festival on August 11th and 12th, a festival of Indie music.  We have several fun activities planned for Sunday the 12th, and we hope to see you at the festival so you can be a part of this next step.  First, any interested members of the audience or performers will come together to listen to a select few of the submitted Toronto sounds and then begin to reflect these sounds in actual music.  Tod will be working with this group to give suggestions, and they will work to get as close as possible to those sounds using instruments in both traditional and non-traditional ways.  During this time, the bands will also have a unique opportunity to join in on the project.  By setting up a recording studio at the festival, we will be able to collect the one chord, sound, or short phrase that represents each individual band.  The idea here is similar to with the sounds in that we hope these clips will be instantly recognizable to any of each bands’ fans.  This should be a great weekend to begin to both listen to Toronto music and to take the next steps of the project together; we hope to see you there!

For more information about “A Toronto Symphony: Concerto for Composer and City,” visit

For more information about the ALL CAPS! festival, visit

Play with “Launch Music”!

So I hope you’ve had a chance to take a look at the first bit of music I made with the Toronto Symphony musicians. Now it’s your turn, to see what your reaction is to the Launch Music and maybe to see if you want to add something to it. You can look at the chords, play them on the piano, look at the video, you can hear the chords, you can hear the full piece. It’s a combination of my chords, what the musicians wrote in response to my chords, and then some improvisation we did back and forth. You can look at the score, and it would be great to hear any comments.

This music might be what A Toronto Symphony actually feels like. It might start with these chords and with this shape. So I’d love to hear if you think this feels like the beginning of a symphony, or if we might change it in some way. And I would definitely love it if you would send chords that you like that maybe my chords suggest to you, you might want to add chords to my chords, you might even want to take the audio recording of the chords or the music we made and jam on top of them. You can sing on top of it, you can play instruments on top of it, or you can use it to write out music that might go along with it.

So that’s my challenge to you now. Here’s this Launch Music. Tell me what you think of it, change it, add something to it, and let’s start working together to shape the opening of this piece based on this music. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Harmonically yours,

UPDATE: Here at last is the edited video from the ideacity 2012 presentation, with a performance of the Launch Music exercise by members of the Toronto Symphony:

“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

Sounds of Toronto – 6 PM

The work day is over for many, the rumble of the homeward commute is crescendoing. Kitchens across the city resound with the sound of vegetables getting chopped, the sizzle of the evening’s meal landing in skillets, the warm-up of the evening’s entertainments…

What’s your sound of Toronto at 6:00 PM?

Grab that sound with your smartphone, digital camera or recorder! Share it on our Facebook page or Soundcloud!  Deadline: August 9, 2012 – because we will be incorporating your sounds into an exciting activity that takes place August 11-12. Details will be revealed soon! Email Rachel McDermott with technical questions.