01 Apr Finding the symphony in the sound of a city
Knight Foundation blog, January, 2017
Think of the city as an orchestra – a rhythm section of cars and buses; the brass sounds of a factory; the emotions played out by a string section, told in the sounds of water; a choir of voices, perhaps in many different languages, all at once, telling stories.
In Miami, we live surrounded by those sounds. Project 305, an ambitious multimedia piece involving the New World Symphony, MIT Media Lab and Knight Foundation, will translate these kinds of Miami sounds and sights into a symphonic work. Miami residents will be able to submit both audio and video clips through a new mobile and web app now available. The clips will become the source material for both the musical piece and accompanying video.
Composer Ted Hearne, filmmaker Jonathan David Kane and MIT composer, inventor and educator Tod Machover, a co-founder of MIT’s Media Lab and a consultant in this project, will work with New World Symphony Artistic Director and co-founder Michael Tilson Thomas, who will be responsible for the overall artistic direction of the Knight-funded work.
Project 305 from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.
The sounds and images will be collected now through May 12, 2017. The new work will premiere on Oct. 21, 2017 at the New World Center, followed by performances in communities and neighborhoods throughout Miami.
“Music is about community and is about connecting people,” said Machover in a presentation at the New World Symphony to launch the project.“ In our fractured culture, now more than ever, [music] is one of the most powerful tools we have…. And besides connecting people, what is particularly important now is to set up models of collaboration of people working together as equals.”
Howard Herring, president and CEO of New World Symphony, noted that this project forwards the organization’s mission to “redefine, reaffirm and express and share [classical music’s] traditions with as many people as possible.”
Project 305, he said, goes even beyond that goal, he said. “Our impulse to share usually means a passive participation of the audience. That’s going to be way different here. This is all about the active, purposeful, in the moment expression on the part of thousands of people. And all is going to come together in a piece of art.”
Balancing the documentary and artistic aspects is a defining challenge of this piece, says Hearne.
Project 305 is a sociological [piece], and definitely documentary in nature,” Hearne said. “Jon Kane and I hope to document the voices and perspectives of individual Miamians from around the city … as they show us what they hear in their own curated experience of the city. But also, my job is to use this documentary project as the seeds of material for a work of art… and that work will inevitably express my personal interpretation of the material we capture, and will hopefully push the audience into the realm of something much less fixed and specific than a documentary.
For Kane, an independent filmmaker, member of Miami’s Borscht Corporation film collective, who was born and raised in Miami, Project 305 has a personal resonance.
My perspective of what Miami identity is comes from how I was raised, from where I come from,” he said. “What is so fascinating for me about this project is being able to reach beyond my personal experiences and understand and experience the city through these other perspectives.” The final product, he expects, is “this Miami narrative and this Miami identity created through the eyes of the community.”
Machover developed the idea of a city symphony three years ago, after the Toronto Symphony Orchestra commissioned a new work from him. “So I went back and I told them that I loved to do a portrait of Toronto,” he said. “Let’s use music to show what Toronto is like. Let’s listen to the city and incorporate that into the piece. But I also said ‘Let’s do it in such a way that it’s not just my piece, but that it is made by anybody in Toronto who wants to participate.’”