By Zachary Woolfe
DETROIT — The composer Tod Machover sat on the floor in a circle of third graders one recent morning at the brightly colored, mural-filled Detroit Achievement Academy. He spoke with them about their city and asked for their help with his new piece, “Symphony in D,” which the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will play for the first time on Friday, Nov. 20.
“What do you think Detroit is going to look like when you’re in high school?” a teacher asked the students, guiding them in a brainstorming exercise.
“You mean if things don’t change?” one replied.
A boy in a black sweatshirt raised his hand. “I think it would look torn down,” he said. “And we have to fix it up.”
By Jeff Waraniak
Do you guys have any old cars that we could bang or smash?”
Composer Tod Machover is only half-joking when he raises this question to percussionists Joe Becker and Jeremy Epp of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The three musicians are rummaging through the DSO’s percussion closet on a late afternoon in mid-July, pinging coffee cans, cowbells, and brake drums in search of unusual sounds.
(Image: Martin Vecchio)
An Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor has combined the sounds of Detroit with music to produce a sonic portrait of the city.
On Sept. 9, 2015, the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra offered the world premiere performance of Tod Machover's Symphony for Lucerne.
Over the course of a year, Machover invited people to use their smart phones to record sounds from around Lucerne. Machover himself returned to the city each month to record conversations, environmental sounds and musical performances. He then assembled the sounds at the MIT Media Lab, where he heads the Opera of the Future group, and incorporated them into his orchestral composition.
The Symphony for Lucerne is very literally meant to represent the sounds of the city, offering an aural portrait as experienced by Lucerne's residents and visitors.
Listen to the full performance at the top of this page, and hear WQXR's Jeff Spurgeon interview Machover about the project below.