DSO and Tod Machover to Capture Sounds of Detroit in Collaborative Symphony for the City

Press Release

November 19, 2014


Support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation helps bring music and this project into communities with U.S. premiere of city symphony project

DETROIT – Nov. 19, 2014 – What does Detroit sound like? The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) and composer Tod Machover will ask every Detroiter that question in the coming year as they work with the community to create a collaborative symphony with sound submissions and conceptual contributions from the public. The work, titled “Symphony in D,” will premiere at Orchestra Hall on Nov. 16, 2015. The project is made possible by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Related Links 

"Launching Symphony in D: A collaborative symphony by and for Detroit" by Tod Machover on Knight Blog

Submit a SOUND


The DSO is the first American orchestra to work with Machover on a collaborative symphony; Machover has completed similar projects in Toronto; Edinburgh, Scotland; Perth, Australia, and is currently working on one for the Lucerne Festival 2015, where he will be composer-in-residence.

Residents may start making submissions today. Instructions on how to submit and additional information is available at dso.org/SymphonyInD.

Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation’s vice president for arts, heard Machover’s symphony in Scotland and immediately wanted to bring his work to Detroit. The DSO’s track record in community engagement and digital innovations via its webcasts made it the perfect partner for the collaboration.

“The future of Detroit is being shaped by the city’s creative community,” Scholl said. “We’d love to see more people get involved, and ‘Symphony in D’ will be a great vehicle for people to share the sounds that define their Detroit.”

To create a musical portrait of the Motor City, the symphony for Detroit will evolve through electronic sound submissions, workshops and discussions throughout the city, original sonic creation, and back-and-forth musical sharing and shaping with Detroit residents and community institutions. Machover, professor of music and media at the Media Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has developed technology that can collect and combine sounds and translate them into music. The snarl of a Mustang’s engine? Fair game. The chaotic din of Eastern Market on a Saturday morning? No problem. The DSO wants to discover what Detroit sounds like through its community. The process involves layers, interactions, associations and discoveries which will produce a work representing the heart and soul of Detroit’s past, present and future.

Special technologies developed by Machover and his Opera of the Future team at the MIT Media Lab will allow people of all ages to contribute to and help shape “Symphony in D.” The Constellation app, used in previous iterations of the City-Symphony series, is a Web-based app that allows anyone to hear the latest sounds collected and to combine them into personalized mixes. Yet another equally significant mobile app in development will be designed especially for the “Symphony in D” project and will allow any sound to be recorded and then geographically “tagged” via mobile device, creating an evolving “sound map” of Detroit and surroundings. This mobile app will be available through the Apple App Store and Google Play in early 2015.

As part of the project’s community outreach program and educational workshops, another computer software program developed by Machover and his teamHyperscore, will allow young people to compose their own musical portraits of Detroit by drawing with lines and colors that Machover can then translate into orchestral impressions. Hyperscore is available for download via hyperscore.com.

“The concept of utilizing the sounds of our city, both those found and those submitted by others and then incorporating them into an orchestral work is quite amazing,” said DSO Music Director Leonard Slatkin. “It will be interesting to see what sounds the people of Detroit will submit and what Tod will choose and how the piece will unfold. Clearly this is a project of unique interest to all those interested in the power of collaborative thinking.”

During the year leading up to the premiere, Machover will visit schools and community centers throughout Detroit to hold workshops and engage the community. This symphony is called a collaboration for a reason: It will bring together the community by exploring the city’s unique sounds and to simply celebrate living in Detroit.

“Detroit is a city filled with bold and contrasting sounds, from the roar and purr of cars, to the crackle and snap of Motown, to the gentle rhythms of urban gardening,” said Machover. “I look forward to working with Detroiters from all backgrounds to create a collective musical portrait of this exciting moment in the city’s history, when everything is being rethought and anything is possible.”


Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit KnightFoundation.org.


Tod Machover has been called “America's most wired composer” by the Los Angeles Times. He is widely recognized as one of the most significant and innovative composers of his generation, and is also celebrated for inventing new technology for music, including Hyperinstruments which he launched in 1986. Machover studied with Elliott Carter and Roger Sessions at The Juilliard School and was the first Director of Musical Research at Pierre Boulez's IRCAM in Paris. He has been Professor of Music and Media at the MIT Media Lab (Cambridge, USA) since it was founded in 1985, and is Director of the Lab’s Hyperinstruments and Opera of the Future Groups. Since 2006, Machover has also been Visiting Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London. CD and DVD recordings of his Pulitzer Prize-finalist “robotic” opera “Death and the Powers” will be released in early 2015. Six World and European premieres, including his seventh collaborative City-Symphony, will be presented at Lucerne Festival 2015 as part of Machover’s Composer-in-Residence appointment there. For more info please visit todmachover.com.


Hailed by The New York Times as “cutting edge,” the internationally acclaimed Detroit Symphony Orchestra, is known for trailblazing performances, visionary maestros, collaborations with the world’s foremost musical artists, and an unwavering commitment to Detroit. Esteemed conductor Leonard Slatkin, called “America’s Music Director” by the Los Angeles Times, became the 12th Music Director of the DSO during the 2008-09 season.  Acclaimed conductor, arranger, and trumpeter Jeff Tyzik serves as Principal Pops Conductor while celebrated trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard holds the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Jazz Creative Director Chair. The DSO’s performance schedule includes Classical, Pops, Jazz, Young People’s, and Neighborhood concerts, and collaborations with chart-topping musicians from Smokey Robinson to Kid Rock. A commitment to broadcast innovation began in 1922 when the DSO became the first orchestra in the world to present a radio broadcast and continues today with the free Live from Orchestra Hall webcast series. Making its home at historic Orchestra Hall within the Max M. Fisher Music Center, one of America’s most acoustically perfect concert halls, the DSO actively pursues a mission to impact and serve the community through music. For more information visit dso.org or download the free DSO to Go mobile app.




Gabrielle Poshadlo; (313) 576-5194; [email protected]