Media Coverage and reviews

For additional media coverage of Tod Machover and Opera of the Future, visit the Opera of the Future blog here.

A Symphony for Perth

Between the Desert and the Deep Blue Sea: A Symphony for Perth was composed from October 2013 to February 2014 for Carolyn Kuan and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, on commission from the Perth International Arts Festival. The 25-minute work is a musical, sonic portrait of Perth and surrounding areas, and was created in collaboration with people from Perth of all ages and backgrounds (based on a creative model I developed for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Edinburgh International Festival, both in 2013, designed to cultivate careful listening to the world around us to discover its hidden music).

Between the Desert and the Deep Blue Sea is a four movement work, played without a break, which conveys Perth’s dramatic geography, the simultaneous complexity and calm I have found there, and the enormous sense of potential and ‘unanswered questions’ that the city and region suggest. You can read more about the ideas behind the piece here and watch a brief trailer for A Symphony for Perth below:

I have travelled rather widely over the years, but I had never been to Perth (nor the rest of Australia) when Perth Festival Artistic Director Jonathan Holloway contacted me about working on this project. With guidance from the Festival team, and with the help of fairly extensive reading and listening, I prepared for a two week trip to Perth in October–November 2013. While there, I explored the city and surroundings, met with schoolchildren from the CBD to Narrogin (who worked on Perth-related compositions using ourHyperscore software), improvised with electronic musicians and traditional performers, and met with people of all walks of life to get their impressions of Perth and to invite them them to help me write this piece. As a result of this visit, of a series of social media activities, and of the superb collaboration of the Perth Festival team, I collected thousands of sounds recorded in Perth, hundreds of compositions written by young people, hours of music played and produced by a wide range of musicians, and a wealth of impressions about Perth and what makes it tick. You can listen to some of my favorite material here.

Once I received sonic material I made it available online in the form of specially designed apps (created by Akito van Troyer at the MIT Media Lab) that allowed the music to be further shaped and shared (and sculpted with the audio expertise of MIT’s Charles Holbrow and Ben Bloomberg). All of this material has influenced the final form and flow of Symphony of Perth, and much of it has been included in the performance. The work is scored for full orchestra plus electronics – controlled onstage by a keyboard player – which inject and layer real and imaginary soundscapes. Together, these forces make up a kind of musical journey which, I hope, will immerse the listener in the sound and feel of Perth, and might suggest what the land itself offers, what people have done with it, and what might be possible as this remarkable oasis evolves into the future.

The world premiere performance of Between the Desert and the Deep Blue Sea: A Symphony for Perth took place on March 1, 2014 as the final concert of the Perth International Arts Festival. You can hear an excellent recording of this performance by clicking on the player below:

You can also listen to the piece with beautiful visuals by Peter Torpey of the MIT Media Lab here.

The piece was very warmly received by audience and critics, and I really hope that you will enjoy it too!!

Thanks for listening – watching – reading.


Enjoy this photo gallery!

HyperConstellation for Perth

As part of our Symphony for Perth project, we have invited young people from throughout the Greater Perth area to create original compositions using our Hyperscore software,

Hyperscore composition software

Hyperscore composition software

expressing some aspect of life – and sound – in Perth. Students from elementary through high school, and from the CBD to Narrogin, worked on their pieces from October through mid-December (brought together by Jemma Gurney, the amazing Education Coordinator at the Perth Festival). I was lucky enough to visit eight different schools when I was in Perth this fall, and got to hear all this music as it was developing. Great experience! Final compositions were sent to me a couple of weeks ago, and I have been listening to them ever since to decide how to incorporate as many of these brilliant, vivid musical visions as possible into the final Symphony.

Hyperscore workshop at Perth Modern School

Hyperscore workshop at Perth Modern School

Hyperscore composers at  Churchlands Primary School

Hyperscore composers at Churchlands Primary School

Rachael Dease, composer-collaborator with Perth International Arts Festival

Rachael Dease, composer-collaborator with Perth International Arts Festival

Hard at work on Hyperscore pieces at Inglewood Primary School

Hard at work on Hyperscore pieces at Inglewood Primary School

Now you can help me think about this as well. The new HyperConstellation app will allow you to experiment with many fragments from the Perth Hyperscore compositions, and to give me suggestions about how they might fit together. Even better, the original computer versions of some of these Hyperscore pieces were transcribed for orchestra by Perth composer Rachael Dease, and recorded just last week by the West Australian Youth Orchestra, conducted by Chris Van Tuinen (who is also head of classical music programming at the Perth Festival).


WA Youth Orchestra, conducted by Chris Van Tuinen, recording selected Perth Hyperscore pieces

Back at the MIT Media Lab where I work, we took these recordings, selected our favorite parts, and fed them into Akito Van Troyer’s Constellation software which organized them into star-map-type patterns that you can explore.

So check out the brand new HyperConstellation app and listen to all these amazing musical motives. By connecting the dots, you can make your own compositions based on these Hyperscore pieces. Check out our recent video for a refresher on how to use Constellation, and make sure to upload your own versions of this material, edit and morph versions left by others, and post your comments on the website or send thoughts and ideas to me directly at

I think you’ll be as impressed as I am at the ingenuity, sensitivity and – yes – sense of humor of Perth’s young people as demonstrated in these pieces, and I really look forward to hearing how you shape and mash-up this material yourselves. Don’t forget to come hear the final Symphony for Perth on March 1, 2014!!

Happy Holidays…..and Happy Hyperscore!!!!


Explore the sounds of Perth with CONSTELLATION web app!

TodWithKangaroo After a whirlwind trip to Perth in October/November when I immersed myself in the sights and sounds of the city, I am excited to share a unique collaborative activity where you will be able to contribute to the creative process of Between the Desert and the Deep Blue Sea: A Symphony for Perth. Since the launch of our project, we have received some amazing sounds that represent the city to you, and I have had the opportunity to record some of my own along with the help of my colleagues at the Perth International Arts Festival. Since my return to the MIT Media Lab, my team and I have been hard at work processing all of this recorded material in order to share it with you in a special web app called CONSTELLATION, which has been enhanced especially for our symphony. From within the CONSTELLATION app, you can explore many of the Perth sounds that have been collected so far and then reshape, modify, morph, and personalize them to create a sonic version of the city and its surroundings that you like best. It has a truly fun – and, honestly, somewhat addictive – interface that lets you move the mouse over clouds of star-like dots to create “constellations” of beautiful sounds. These constellations are recorded, can be played back, and become your personal musical “score” made from this material. Using the Constellation app, you’ll find five very different “galaxies” of sound – Dry, Wet, City, Improv and Mix – in which to create your sonic trajectories.  Each category of sounds is quite distinct and was shaped by my recent experiences in Perth: Dry Dry: Sounds from the hills, wheat country, mines, flies, crows…..all the good, the bad and the ugly from “dry Perth.” Wet Wet: Ocean sounds from up and down the coast, plus rivers, fountains, and other lovely, fluid strains. City City: A mixture as diverse as Perth itself (including some snippets from Fremantle Market). Improv Improv: Snippets taken from improv sessions with local Perth musicians, from cello to clarinet, laptop to electric guitar, piano to didgeridoo, and more. Mix Mix: A little bit of everything, all in one “constellation.” Please experiment with these different sounds and settings as much as you want. Everything that you create with the Constellation app will be considered for use in many sections of the piece, and I’ll be sure to let you know how and where it gets used over the coming weeks. You can also play with the “constellations” that other people have created by visiting the Score Gallery. And don’t forget to keep sending in your own audio recordings of your favorite sounds of Perth via our special SoundCloud account!  If you can send me sounds by January 10, 2014, it will be more likely that I will be able to include them in the symphony. I look forward to continuing our collaboration towards the premiere of Between the Desert and the Deep Blue Sea: A Symphony for Perth as the finale to the Perth International Arts Festival on March 1, 2014. Tod (from far-away and very cold, snowy Boston!)

Welcome message from Tod Machover

I am very pleased to welcome you to an unusual musical adventure, a “collaborative” symphony about and for Perth, Australia, that I will create over the coming months along with any of you with a strong connection to Perth: if you live in Perth, come from Perth, or simply love Perth, please join me on this journey. Under the auspices of the Perth International Arts Festival and the MIT Media Lab, where I am a composer, inventor and Professor of Music & Media, I will be creating this new composition entitled From the Desert to the Deep Blue Sea: A Symphony for Perth that will be premiered by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra as a finale to the Festival on March 1, 2014. Instead of writing this piece alone, I invite all of you to collaborate on the creation and development of this symphony.

You can start right away by sending me audio recordings of your favorite Perth sounds – ocean, traffic, voices, surprises…anything that conjures Perth for you -along with any audio or text explanations you might want to add. If you have a smartphone or recording device, all you have to do is capture a sound around you and upload it to our special SoundCloud account, or you can send sounds and comments to If you can send me sounds before December 1, it will be more likely that I’ll be able to include them in the symphony.

Between now and March 1, this website will be updated regularly. Please subscribe to receive information about the project and how you can continue to participate in the development of this special symphony for your city. There will be increasingly collaborative ways to influence the piece as it develops, using special music apps from the MIT Media Lab that we’ll be posting online.

For further information about the piece and the Festival, please visit the official Perth International Arts Festival website.

For further information about previous collaborative symphonies, you might be interested in looking at our previous projects in Toronto and Edinburgh.

I hope very much that you will join me in this exciting endeavor and look forward to making music with you soon!


Tod Machover
MIT Media Lab
Cambridge, U.S.A.