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Machover's Toy Symphony: children meet technology

(May 2002)

One of the most innovative educational projects to fuse music and technology was launched in April. Toy Symphony combines new orchestral works by Tod Machover and his colleagues at the MIT Media Lab, live participation from local schoolchildren using interactive toy instruments, and virtuoso Joshua Bell on hyperviolin. A preview in Berlin in February with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester conducted by Kent Nagano was followed by the official premiere on 9 April with the National Orchestra of Ireland under Gerhard Markson to launch MIT’s new MediaLabEurope in Dublin. The UK premiere takes place in Glasgow on 2 June with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabbins, and plans are underway for tours in the USA and Japan.

The Toy Symphony concert programme acts as a showcase for the project. The event opens with Machover’s Sparkler for orchestra and interactive computer electronics, followed by works for children playing beatbug and shaper toy instruments, and a composition created by children using the Hyperscore compositional software. After the interval Joshua Bell plays Paganini’s Caprice No.24 in an arrangement for solo hyperviolin, and the concert culminates in Machover’s Toy Symphony for orchestra, hyperviolin, children’s chorus and electronics.

"...the effervescent American composer and his team of whiz-kid inventors and researchers have been dreaming up the 'orchestra of the future'." BBC Music Magazine

"…the most important component is the experience to which the participating children were exposed along the way, and the developments in their relationship to music which resulted… the young audience created quite a buzz and the fun seemed very real." Irish Times

For further information on the Toy Symphony project, visit

> Further information on Work: Toy Symphony

Photo: Tod Machover with schoolchildren at Toy Symphony workshops in Berlin. Credit: MIT Media Lab

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