phindie - The Philadelphia Orchestra pulls in an audience with a surprisingly good Philadelphia Voices
By Margaret Darby.
Tod Machover. Photo by Joi Ito.
Knowing that the program would contain a collage of sounds and poetry collected and collaged by Tod Machover, creative director at MIT’s Media Lab, I assumed Philadelphia Voices would be a cute, little, piece of popular music with trite songs about cheesesteaks. It was neither trite nor trivial. Machover created some serious music and selected some very striking poetry by Philadelphians. My favorite verses came from the pen of a brilliant teenager named Jayda Hepburn. Hepburn, a Mighty Writer, wrote some lines that resonate:
“The City of Brotherly Love rests on the river/And we all await the next morning/Waiting to love again.”Another verse by Ms. Hepburn stayed with me: “The country is full of black people/And pain and blood and gunsmoke/And anger and a mother’s tears/And screaming/And us black people scream back/And pray for the night to end/For mom to dry her tears/And for someone to fucking listen.”
The uncensored verses were deftly incorporated into a surprisingly classical score, undergirded by a strong organ part which provided both musical support and, in other sections, a musical backdrop of sports arena music and dancing block parties. Machover used rhythms to great effect: a series of 5/8 measures for “Philadelphia” and some 7/8 for “Benjamin Franklin” which the Keystone State Boychoir and Pennsylvania Girlchoir sang with crisp and controlled intonation.