Composer Tod Machover Discusses How He Created 'Philadelphia Voices'

Apr 10, 2018
Originally published on April 11, 2018 6:21 am
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Take the everyday sounds of a city - traffic, people's voices - give them to composer and MIT professor Tod Machover and out comes a symphony.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOD MACHOVER'S "A TORONTO SYMPHONY")

KELLY: That's from "A Toronto Symphony," the first of several city symphonies Machover has composed. Tonight, "Philadelphia Voices" will be performed at Carnegie Hall with The Philadelphia Orchestra.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We asked Machover to give us a taste of some of the everyday sounds he's woven into this symphony.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOD MACHOVER'S "PHILADELPHIA VOICES")

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Huzzah, huzzah, huzzah, huzzah, huzzah, huzzah.

TOD MACHOVER: Huzzah was at the incredible Museum of the American Revolution. It was on Halloween, and they were teaching kids how to play Revolutionary War battle drums.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOD MACHOVER'S "PHILADELPHIA VOICES")

COMMONWEALTH YOUTH CHOIR: (Singing) Philadelphia, Philadelphia.

MACHOVER: This was a group called the Commonwealth Youth Choir. I asked them to each sing the word Philadelphia in a way that showed something about how they felt about Philadelphia and also something about themselves.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOD MACHOVER'S "PHILADELPHIA VOICES")

COMMONWEALTH YOUTH CHOIR: (Singing) Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Philadelphia.

MACHOVER: When I go into cities, I try to avoid the most obvious cliche for those cities, so I tried to avoid the cheesesteak, but...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Can I help you?

MACHOVER: ...I went to this cheesesteak place, and not only did they let me put my microphone almost on the griddle when the cheesesteaks were sizzling, the cook tried to tell me that the cheesesteaks weren't so bad for you.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: It brings people together, you know?

KELLY: The sizzle of a Philly cheesesteak, and other sounds, composer Tod Machover has worked into his new symphony "Philadelphia Voices." It will be performed tonight at Carnegie Hall.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOD MACHOVER'S "PHILADELPHIA VOICES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.