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Transforming Music

“America’s most wired composer” to deliver special Science Café March 29

March 11, 2011 | by Megan Fellman
Tod Machover
Tod Machover

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Tod Machover, composer of the opera “Death and the Powers” and inventor of Guitar Hero, will discuss his work melding music and technology Tuesday, March 29, at Northwestern University.

His talk, “Transforming Music: From Guitar Hero to Robotic Opera and Beyond,” will take place at 7 p.m. in the McCormick Tribune Center Forum, 1870 Campus Drive. (Doors open at 6:30 p.m.) A question-and-answer session will close the program, followed by a reception in the lobby.

The program is free, but reservations are required and should be made here.

Machover will describe how new tools and technologies, from virtuosity simulators like Guitar Hero to medical devices that use music for rehabilitation, are opening doors to musical expression. He will touch on the future of music, including “personalized music” that could adapt to each person’s interests, needs and desires.

Machover also will discuss the motivation, musical ideas and technologies behind his new opera, “Death and the Powers,” which will receive its Midwest premiere next month at the Chicago Opera Theater. The story is of a wealthy businessman who downloads himself into his environment in a bid for immortality.

The opera, often called “The Robots’ Opera,” uses specially designed technology, including a chorus of 12 robots and a set that expressively “comes alive” with the thoughts and feelings of the lead character, Simon Powers.

Machover is a professor of music and media at the MIT Media Lab and director of the lab’s Hyperinstruments/Opera of the Future group. His music has been acclaimed for breaking traditional artistic and cultural boundaries, offering an innovative synthesis of acoustic and electronic sound, of symphony orchestras and interactive computers, and of operatic arias and rock songs.

He is the inventor of Hyperinstruments, a technology that uses smart computers to augment virtuosity. Yo-Yo Ma, Prince and Peter Gabriel have performed using his instruments.

Machover was a guest speaker at the Dean’s Seminar Series at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science earlier this month. A video of the panel discussion can be viewed here.

“Transforming Music” is a special Science Café Evanston, a casual public forum held monthly during the academic year to explore and debate the latest ideas in science and technology.

This event and other science cafés are sponsored by Northwestern’s chapter of Sigma Xi, the scientific research society. Information on upcoming events is available here.

Topics: Campus Life