The Bicycle Music Festival hops on board!!

We’re delighted to announce that the Toronto Bicycle Music Festival has joined forces with us to create music and recordings for A Toronto Symphony. Scheduled for September 15 this year, the wonderfully quirky festival enlists dozens of musicians and music-lovers to cycle their way from neighborhood to neighborhood, stopping to so bands can perform at various locations. All the electricity is generated by pedal power!! Check out the video:

You can find out more about the festival here. Performers at this year’s festival will include Snowblink, Gentleman Reg, Lemon Bucket Orkestra and Rae Spoon. We hope you can join the fun and help capture some fresh Sounds of Toronto for us!

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,
Tod

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 – 6:00 AM

We’ve been enjoying the sound recordings that people have been sending in response to our first “task”. The subway chime has been forever burned into our auditory memory. What about the melodic chatter of Chinatown conversations, punctuated by the clink of dinner plates?

Over the next several weeks, we’ll set a “daily task” that we hope will inspire you to think in a more focused way about the sounds in your world. First is a series on sounds associated with different times of the day. Here’s one for early birds:

What is your sound of Toronto at 6:00 AM?

Grab your smartphone, digital camera or recorder and capture the sound. It can be a few seconds or up to a minute, depending on the sound. Save your sound/video file and 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!

If you need technical help, email Rachel McDermott <rachelmc@mit.edu>. Have fun!

“Launch Music” for A Toronto Symphony (Part 1)

To officially launch our A Toronto Symphony collaboration, I created a series of chords last month to serve as a kind of “genetic” code for the project, and also to serve as material that we could share back-and-forth to modify and to make new things. Chord progressions are great because they are both simple – a kind of musical backbone or skeleton – yet complex enough to truly tell a story. Just think of the chords in a classic piece by The Beatles like “Michelle”, or the way Bach squeezes a universe of expression out of his seemingly simple 4-part Chorales.

Click on image to enlarge

I have always enjoyed composing harmonic progressions, and the one I have started for A Toronto Symphony is typical of the way I work (see score at right). There is a strong melody line that helps to shape how each chord moves to the next, and how the whole line together creates a story. In my music, the bass (lowest) line is equally important…and of course I care about the rest of the notes too. In addition, this chord progression starts and ends simply, but moves in waves, zigzagging from simple/familiar to complex/strange chords, from notes bunched near the center of the keyboard to those spreading from low to high, and from chords which feel restful and resolved to those that seem dense and tense. Sometimes the movement from one chord to the next feels fluid and natural, sometimes surprising. I have tweaked this all fairly carefully, so that the whole progression feels pleasing and complete but also has much variety and potential for further development.

You can hear how the first section of the chord progression sounds by listening at 9:10 in the video below, from my ideacity 2012 talk:

[iframe src=”http://cdn.livestream.com/embed/ideacity?layout=4&clip=flv_21c4a46a-1a95-4042-ab21-0fb7f2175ed4&height=340&width=560&autoplay=false” width=”560″ height=”340″]

 

Feel free to download the score and play around with it yourself. Try it on an instrument, add your own melodies, rhythms and variations, and share it back. I’d love to hear what you do with it!

Harmonically yours,
Tod

Coming soon, Part 2 

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.

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Join Me for A Toronto Symphony

Welcome to the A Toronto Symphony project. Over the coming months, I am inviting you – the citizens of Toronto – to collaborate with me to compose a new symphony which will be premiered by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on March 9, 2013, at the New Creations Festival. Some of the music will be by you, some by me, and some shaped by us together. My hope is that we will create something that neither you nor I could have done without each other, and that will be surprising, stimulating, and beautiful, a musical portrait about – and by – Toronto.

Take a look at the intro video and see below for how to participate. Scroll down for the latest postings about our activities and ways for you to get involved. Please subscribe so that we can send you alerts. (See links at right to subscribe via email, RSS, Facebook or Twitter.)

Thank you so much for taking an interest. Let’s get started!

– Tod

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There are many ways to get involved!

Connect and collaborate! Our Facebook community page is where we will all share our creations, ask questions, and form groups to collaborate and create new sounds.
Subscribe to me on YouTube Share your video of what Toronto sounds like!

  1. Upload your video to YouTube (you’ll need an account)
  2. Post your video on the community Facebook wall
  3. Or send a link to your video to tod@tso.ca
Share your sound recording of what Toronto sounds like!

  1. Upload your audio recording to Soundcloud (you’ll need an account)
  2. Post your recording on the community Facebook wall
  3. Or send a link to your recording to tod@tso.ca

A Graphic Score by Peter Torpey

Most pieces of music have a score, which shows musicians what to play or helps listeners to listen. For A Toronto Symphony, my colleague Peter Torpey and I have created a score which will help us all to compose and to imagine the shape and sections of the piece that we are creating together. This score tells the “story” of the piece, shows what the sections or “movements” will be, and describes the basic way that we will collaborate to make the symphony.

Here’s the graphic score of A Toronto Symphony, and below the picture is a description of how I imagine each section. This may evolve as we share our music and discuss the project, as a medieval cathedral evolved from blueprint to reality based on the contributions of every sculptor, stonemason and bricklayer. Off we go:

And here is my description of the sections that are shown in the graphic score:

Continue reading