Last night’s world premiere of “Festival City” went off without a hitch. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra players were on fire, and the acoustics in Usher Hall were excellent. Kudos too to the Edinburgh International Festival audience for their commitment and enthusiasm to new work. Check out this BBC report from the rehearsal, including a video with interviews with Tod Machover and RSNO conductor Peter Oundjian. The entire performance was also recorded and we hope will be broadcast soon. Stay tuned…
Wired UK posted this excellent article today that provides an in-depth look at the Festival City project. Included are detailed descriptions of how the music apps work. We loved this:
To compose Festival City, which Machover hopes will bring out the contrasts of the city, Machover first invited people to submit raw material that reminded of them of Edinburgh during festival time. These could be pieces of music, sounds or recorded stories and anecdotes which were submitted by email, uploaded toSoundCloud or recorded on an answering phone. Sounds that particularly stood out for Machover were those of church bells and people talking in the lobbies discussing shows they’d just seen, as well what he describes as an “indie rock band of traffic”, where each of the cars stood out like soloists, rather than just collaborating to a single mass of traffic noise.
Tod is in Edinburgh this week and next, busy fine-tuning and rehearsing “Festival City”, which premieres next Tuesday, August 27th, at the Edinburgh International Festival. Tickets here.
The M.I.T. Media Lab Opera of the Future group’s work is the subject of a full-page article by Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim in the August 16th issue of the New York Times. It’s an engagingly written piece that covers the history of Tod Machover’s work in music composition and technology, from hyperinstruments to “Death and the Powers” to “Festival City”, including a description of the Cauldron app in action. Accompanying the story is a terrific slide show of photographs by Katherine Taylor. Tod’s newest work, “Festival City”, premieres next week, on August 27th, at the Edinburgh International Festival.
Last month, composer Tod Machover joined an online audience together with pianist Tae Kim in an experience that fused Web-based interaction with a live piano performance. This demo centered on the Cauldron app built at the Media Lab for the “Festival City” project commissioned by the Edinburgh International Festival. The app is populated with the sounds of the music most frequently performed over the history of the festival. The pieces are represented by colored circles, and participants online can “stir” the musical brew by positioning their cursors over the circles, which move and grow in response. During this live demo, Tod worked on a second interface to determine how the musical fragments would interact with one another, and piano virtuoso Tae Kim used the evolving images as a “score” to improvise music. His improvisations in turn will inform the final piece, which premieres on August 27th. Watch the demo in the video above.
This guide from The Scotsman and WOW247 highlights its top 13 picks from the Edinburgh International Festival. “Festival City” gets a nice shout out…
13 stand-out shows at the Edinburgh International Festival
The RSNO perform a suite of works inspired by “film noir, big-band jazz and the movies of David Lynch”, which includes a world premiere of Tod Machover‘s Festival City – an attempt to gather “sonic memories of Edinburgh” to help shape an orchestral work, between now and August.
We’re starting to see some lovely media coverage of the Festival City project. Check out:
The Scotsman – Sounds of Edinburgh to be used in festival symphony – “Birdsong, buskers, traffic and even tramworks could all end up being part of Tod Machover’s crowd-sourced work, Festival City, which he will work on until just shortly before it is premiered. Billed as a “sonic portrait” of the city, it will be unveiled at the Usher Hall in August in a one-off show to be performed by the Royal ScottishNational Orchestra.”
Boston Business Journal – A score for the world’s biggest music fest? There’s an app for that – “Machover said he said he sees Edinburgh as a divided city, with beautiful, 18th Century architecture on one hand, but the historical backdrop for “Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde” and J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” Series. He said that while the Toronto project was “like a journey where it ends up pretty classical,” the Edinburgh music will be different, because he’ll be letting the Cauldron – and everything residents stir into it – to determine its flow. ‘I think this piece may end up being more experimental,” he said. “I don’t want to write a simple melody to tie everything together. What’s going to tie everything together will be the soup.'”
West End Broadway World – 2013 Edinburgh International Festival Launches New ‘Cauldron’ App “With Cauldron we grow closer and closer to the idea of a sonic portrait of Edinburgh. I want Cauldron to give users a feeling akin to standing on top of Arthur’s Seat and absorbing the entire city at once. Having spent time working the RSNO and different school groups across Edinburgh, I’ve been directly inspired by their enthusiasm and energetic input, and am excited to share further the sounds created through Cauldron’.”
“Festival City” was featured yesterday in the inaugural episode of BBC Scotland’s new show, “The Culture Studio with Janice Forsyth.” Janice’s interview with Tod Machover starts at 1:34:00 and runs to the end of the show. There is also a fantastic interview with media historian David Hendy (at 1:21:00), who talks about the role of noise in human history and plays a soundscape from an imagined early 19th century Edinburgh. Plus a superb interview with Annie Lennox (at 0:04:21). Enjoy!
The idea behind “Festival City” — of inviting a community to collaborate on composing a musical work — developed over many years of musical and technological exploration at the M.I.T. Media Lab, as explained in this article in the Guardian. Composer Tod Machover describes his hopes for “Festival City”:
…he envisages it as a collaboration with anyone who loves the Scottish capital. The work will, he hopes, be a kind of “tone poem” that “feels and sounds like the city and its festivals”. Anyone interested can submit a recording, or simply suggest a particular sound that they associate with the city. Machover adds, somewhat darkly, “It may be hard to imagine avoiding bagpipes completely.” (GuyFromPortugal has already submitted a snippet entitled “The sounds of constant wind”.) From early June, via an app, there will also be the chance for members of the public to manipulate and alter the weight, complexity and texture of melodies composed by Machover, who will use the best in the final piece.