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A Toronto Symphony composer Tod Machover keeps adding interaction weeks before premiere

By John Terauds on January 13, 2013

tod_wingsWe are just under eight weeks from the premiere of A Toronto Symphony, which closes the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s New Creations Festival on March 9.

The composer is Boston-based Tod Machover, who is more big-hearted Mad Professor with an iPad than lonely artist perched with pencil over big sheets of lined paper.

Composer is, in fact, a totally wrong way to describe Machover. He is a muse or a facilitator in the very best sense, laying out the very best 21st century tools he and his graduate students at MIT’s Media Lab can come up with to make the composition a collaboration with Torontonians and anyone else interested in dabbling in the digital manipulation of sound.

The latest addition to his crowdsourced-music toolchest is the City Soaring app, which puts paintbrush-like tools in our hands that manipulate the basic musical motifs supplied for this portion of the new work. (Note that Machover’s materials only work on recent versions of Chrome and Safari web browsers.)

Machover is laying out all the pieces; we put them together.

A Toronto Symphony is a great exercise in harnessing the latest digital and social media tools for something that is normally a small, esoteric part of our larger culture. It is a great way to remind anyone of any age that creativity is not the domain of uniquely gifted individuals.

The thing is, if Machover really is the ideal facilitator, he won’t be able to do anything if we, his partners in audio manipulation, create a dog’s breakfast.

When you mix too many colours in visual art, you get a sludgy brown. Add too many herbs, spices and vegetables to a soup and you can’t tell what you’re slurping anymore.

I’m looking forward to March 9. But I’m trying to figure out exactly what I’ll be reviewing — and whether I or anyone else will be able to judge A Toronto Symphony in the traditional way as a piece of music.

What do you think?

You can check out Machover’s full palette of contributions here. The link to the Toronto Symphony’s site for this concert is here.

John Terauds

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