By Margaret K. Evans, MIT Media Lab.
Ahead of the world premiere of Philadelphia Voices, in this interview, Tod Machover shares his insights into the composition and the community.
Q: How did Philadelphia Voices come about?
Tod: Five years and eight cities ago, we mounted our first project in the Opera of the Future group’s City Symphonies series. We hadn’t planned it; the idea sprang from serendipity.
In 2012, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra invited me to curate their annual festival and compose a piece for the event. I knew that they were an adventurous orchestra and that in asking me they wanted something unusual. As I considered how to create a musical portrait of Toronto, I knew I’d do it by listening to the city… and its people.
What was needed, I thought, was a way of creating a much broader cultural ecology where people who didn’t know a lot about music and people who knew more and the top people in the profession could all not just communicate but truly collaborate to make something extraordinary together. So, I went back to the orchestra and said that I wanted to incorporate real city sounds into the symphony, and I also wanted to invite the entire city to help me make the piece. The orchestra said yes.
Then my Opera of the Future research group and I had to figure out how to actually do this. In doing so, the City Symphony idea was born. That first project in Toronto, which premiered in March 2013, was an invigorating success, and we went on to create City Symphonies in Edinburgh, Perth, Lucerne, and Detroit, among other places.
While the core mission of City Symphonies remains the same, each project has taken on a character of its own, unique to each city and what we find there. Now, from its very start, Philadelphia has been a very different experience from all the other cities.
This infographic shows some of what went into making Philadelphia Voices. (Credit: The Philadelphia Orchestra)