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Ted Talk: Tod Machover and Dan Ellsey

Name: Inventing instruments that unlock new music

Speaker: Tod Machover (Composer, inventor) and Dan Ellsey (Musician)



Tod Machover (Composer, inventor) At MIT's Media Lab, Tod Machover creates boundary-breaking new music, often using new instruments and music technologies he has invented.


Dan Ellsey (Musician) Dan Ellsey uses Hyperscore music software and a custom-tuned musical "hyperinstrument" to write, perform and conduct his music, and to help others learn how to compose.



"Music can change your life, more than almost anything.” Tod Machover

Believing that making music is as awesome as listening to music, Machover underlines that everyone in the world has the power to be a part of music and to create music in a dynamic way. This is one of the most important issues he is working on with the MIT Media Lab, and for this purpose they have been working on an area called active music for a while. They look for ways to not only listen to music, but also to bring people in the middle of the process of creating music and experiencing it.


This journey, which they started by making interactive hyperinstruments with interpretation and emotion exchange through sensors for the world's best musicians, orchestras and rock bands, such as Yo-Yo Ma, Peter Gabriel, and Prince evolves into a passion for making the right instrument for everyone. Thus, an instrument ensemble called Brain Opera is formed, consisting of about 100 instruments, which everyone can play using their natural talents. Brain Opera, which toured for a while, is in the museum built in Vienna.


Brain Opera caused the birth of the Guitar Hero that almost everyone knows. The idea of ​​enabling musical experiences that go beyond Guitar Hero, gives birth to a project they call Toy Symphony. In this project instruments were adapted to children and they made this possible, after being inspired by Oliver Sacks' book called "Musicophilia", which is about the wonderful effect of music on people's lives for all people who don't usually have the opportunity to make music.


Machover, who works with many hospitals to produce activities that improve human health, mentions that in Tewksbury Hospital, where the software they call Hyperscore, which enables anyone who can use colors and lines to make very sophisticated music, becomes one of the main treatments used. Saying that everyone can experience music deeply even though it requires making different instruments, makes Todd believe that personalized musical instruments are the future of music and musical instruments.


Dan Ellsey, a 34-year-old cerebral palsy patient, performs his piece “My Eagle Song” on stage thanks to the software prepared for him, and forces us to agree with Machover. You don't want to miss this fascinating performance, click here to watch the talk. You can also reach all his songs by clicking here.






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