Tod Machover

Tod Machover

Tod Machover (born November 24, 1953 in Mount Vernon, New York), the son of a pianist and a computer scientist, is a composer and an innovator in the application of technology in music.

He attended the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1971 and received a BM and MM from the Juilliard School in New York where he studied with Elliott Carter and Roger Sessions (1973–1978). He also started his Doctoral studies at Juilliard before being invited as Composer-in-Residence to Pierre Boulez's new Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) in 1978. He was named Director of Musical Research at IRCAM in 1980. Joining the faculty at the new Media Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1985, he became Professor of Music and Media and Director of the Experimental Media Facility. Currently Professor of Music and Media at the MIT Media Lab, he is head of the Lab's Hyperinstruments/Opera of the Future group and has been Co-Director of the Things That Think (TTT) and Toys of Tomorrow (TOT) consortia since 1995. In 2006, he was named Visiting Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He has designed and implemented various interactive systems for performance by Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Matt Haimovitz, the Ying Quartet, the Boston Pops, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Penn & Teller, Peter Gabriel, Prince and many others. Machover gave a keynote lecture at NIME-02, the second international conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression, which was held in 2002 at the former Media Lab Europe in Dublin, Ireland, and is a frequent lecturer worldwide.


In the fall of 1978, Tod Machover arrived at IRCAM in Paris, and was introduced to Giuseppe di Giugno's digital synthesizer 4 series. "Light" was premiered at the Metz Festival in November 1979 using 4C, the brain-child of di Giugno's concept that "synthesizers should be made for musicians, not for the people that make them." ("Electric Sound", p. 181). In 1981 he composed "Fusione Fugace" for solo performance on a real-time digital synthesizer, called the 4X machine. At IRCAM 1986 and 1987 he was motivated to score for keyboard and percussion duet with emphasis on extending their performance into many complex sound layers. He composed "Valis", again using di Giugno’s 4X system to process voices. This desire to enhance the human performance foreshadowed his concept of the hyperinstrument (term coined in 1986). At MIT's Media Lab, he developed methods for taking many more sophisticated measurements of the instrument as well as the performer’s expression. He focused on augmenting keyboard instruments, percussion, strings, even the act of conducting, with the goal of developing and implementing new technology in order to expand the function of the musical instruments and their performers. He propelled forward-thinking research in the field of musical performance and interaction using new musical and technological resources. Originally concentrated to the enhancement of virtuosic performance, research has expanded in a direction of building sophisticated interactive musical instruments for non-professional musicians, children, and the general public.



Basically an electric violin, audio output provides raw material for real-time timbre analysis and synthesis techniques. Coupled with an enhanced bow (see Hyperbow), measured properties of both the audio output of the instrument and the bowing gesture of the player create data which controls aspects of the resulting amplified sound.


In addition to bow pressure and string contact, wrist measurements and left-hand fingering-position indicators create measurements which are evaluated and processed in response to the performance.


Bowing parameters (speed, force, position) are measured and data is processed to create an interaction between performance properties and audio output. Different types or styles of bowing create complex calculations which are conducive to the performance and manipulation of larger structures and compositional shapes.


MIDI data generated by performer on a Yamaha Disklavier is manipulated by various Max/MSP processes as accompaniment and augmentation of keyboard performance.


* "Ye Gentle Birds" (1979) for soprano, mezzo-soprano and wind ensemble
* "Fresh Spring" (1977) for baritone solo and large chamber ensemble
* "With Dadaji in Paradise" (1977-'78, rev. 1983) for solo cello
* "Two Songs" (1978) for soprano and chamber ensemble
* "Concerto for Amplified Guitar" (1978) for amplified acoustic guitar and large chamber ensemble
* "Deplacements" (1979) for amplified guitar and computer-generated tape
* "Light" (1979) for chamber orchestra and computer electronics
* "Soft Morning, City!" for soprano, double bass, and computer-generated tape
* "Winter Variations" (1981) for large chamber ensemble
* "String Quartet No. 1" (1981)
* "Fusione Fugace" (1981-'82) for keyboard, two specialized interfaces, and live 4X digital synthesizer
* "Chansons d'Amour" (1982) for solo piano
* "Electric Etudes" (1983) for amplified cello, live and pre-recorded computer electronics
* "Spectres Parisiens" (1983-'84) for flute, horn, cello, chamber orchestra and computer electronics
* "Hidden Sparks" (1984) for solo violin [ Hidden Sparks]
* "Famine" (1985) for four amplified voices and computer-generated sounds
* "Desires" (1985-'89) for symphony orchestra
* "Nature's Breath" (1988-'89) for chamber orchestra
* "Towards the Center" (1988-'89) for amplified flute, clarinet, violin, cello, electronic keyboard and percussion, with five hyperinstrument electronics
* "Flora" (1989) for pre-recorded soprano and computer-generated sound
* "Bug Mudra" (1989-'90) for two guitars (electric and amplified-acoustic), electronic percussion, conducting dataglove, and interactive computer electronics
* "Begin Again Again …" (1991) for Yo-Yo Ma and hypercello [ Hyperstring Trilogy]
* "Song of Penance" (1992) for ""hyperviola"" and chamber orchestra [ Hyperstring Trilogy]
* "Forever and Ever" (1993) for ""hyperviolin"" and orchestra [ Hyperstring Trilogy]
* "Hyperstring Trilogy" (1991-'93, rev. 1996-'97) for hypercello, hyperviola, hyperviolin and chamber orchestra [ Hyperstring Trilogy]
* "Bounce" (1992) for hyperkeyboards, Yamaha Disklavier Grand piano and interactive computer electronics
* "He's Our Dad" (1997) for soprano, keyboard and computer-generated sound
* "Meteor Music" (1998) interactive installation [ Meteorite Museum]
* "Sparkler" (2001) for orchestra and interactive computer electronics [ Sparkler]
* "Toy Symphony" (2002/3) for ""hyperviolin"", Children's Chorus, Music Toys, and Orchestra [ Toy Symphony]
* "Mixed Messiah" (2004), a 6-minute remix of Handel's Messiah [ Mixed Messiah]
* "I Dreamt A Dream" (2004) for youth chorus, piano and electronics []
* "Sea Soaring" (2005) for flute, electronics, and live audience interaction [ Music Garden]
* "...but not simpler..." (2005) [ Not Simpler]
* "Jeux Deux" (2005) for hyperpiano and orchestra [ Jeux Deux]
* "Another Life" (2006) for nine instruments and electronics
* "VinylCello" (2007) for amplified cello, DJ and live computer electronics []


* "Valis: an opera in two parts" (1987) (OCLC OCLC search link|19489388) based on Philip K. Dick's novel "VALIS"
* "Brain Opera" (1996), an original, interactive musical experience that included contributions from both on-line participants and live audiences. It toured Europe, Asia, the United States and South America from 1996 to 1998 and was permanently installed at Vienna's House of Music in the spring of 2000. []
* "Resurrection" (1999) (based on Leo Tolstoy's last novel) []
* "Death and the Powers" (in progress), an opera with live electronics and robotics [ Powers]
* "Skellig" (in progress), an opera based on the novel by David Almond


* Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, "France" (1995)
* DigiGlobe Prize in Interactive Media, "Germany" (1998)
* Telluride Tech Festival Award of Technology and the Ray Kurzweil Award of Technology in Music, "USA" (2003)
* Charles Steinmetz Prize from IEEE and Union College, "USA" (2007)


* [ Web page]
* [ Faculty profile]
* [ Research & Projects]
* [ NewMusicBox]
* [ Shaping Minds Musically]
* [ Music-Making for All]
* [ CNN Video Documentary 1/07]
* [ "My Cello" in Turkle's 'Evocative Objects', MIT Press 2007]


* cite book
last = Chadabe
first = Joel
authorlink = Joel Chadabe
coauthors =
year = 1997
title = Electric Sound: The Past and Promise of Electronic Music
publisher =
location =
id =

* cite book
last = Machover
first = Tod
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 2004
title = Shaping Minds Musically
publisher =
location =
id =

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