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 – 6:00 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 <>. Have fun!

Sound Inspirations via NPR

We have been receiving some terrific “sounds of Toronto” and suggestions of sounds, so thanks to all of you who have sent things to us. Many others have contacted us to say that they will be sending sounds, so we really look forward to listening to those.

As you are thinking of the most typical Toronto sounds to send or to tell us about, I thought that you might be interested in taking a listen to this short radio piece that – coincidentally – popped up on National Public Radio in the U.S. on Monday.

I nearly drove my car into a tree when I heard it, since it has so much relevance to the kinds of sounds we are trying to collect. Listen here.

What I think is so interesting about this NPR piece is that people identified not only typical but also really unusual sounds from their respective cities, from all over America. For instance, someone identified the signature sound of New Orleans not as music spilling out of jazz clubs, but rather as the sound of the steam calliope on the riverboat Natchez. Never would have thought of that!

Steam calliope on the riverboat Natchez

I hope you enjoy listening to this NPR clip, and also hope that it might give you an idea or two of sounds you know in Toronto that will surprise and delight, and will also allow all of us – from the city and from afar – to listen to Toronto in a new way.

Look forward very much to hearing from – and to hearing – you.

– Tod

P.S. For a reminder of how to send us sounds, or suggestions of sounds, see our Launch post. To subscribe to this blog, click here.

Media coverage of our launch

We’re starting to get media coverage of our launch. The CBC’s popular morning radio program, Metro Morning, aired an interview with me on June 14. Click here to listen.

The Toronto Star has invited readers to send in their “sounds of Toronto” and plans to report on the results.

The Toronto Standard has a nice write-up of our initial composing process, in which I collaborated with eight talented and adventurous musicians from the Toronto Symphony to create some new music:

The resulting composition, performed at the official launch at the ideacity conference, built from a scattered, wandering mélange of textures into a series of playful melodies and phases with each instrument taking brief solos. It’s an unexpected, yet pleasing tune that evokes the diverse bustle of a metropolis.

And here’s a thoughtful blog post by John Terauds for Musical TorontoI really didn’t know what to expect, so it’s a relief to read his reaction:

Machover’s Ideacity audience had a chance to hear the results, which may or may not be part of the much, much larger finished work. But along the way, the composer was able to prove to himself, as well as key witnesses, that weaving other people’s ideas into a meaningful whole is possible.

Interested in learning more? Post your questions and comments here!

– Tod

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
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

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