By Anya Ventura | Arts at MIT
In the mid-1980s, composer Tod Machover came across a copy of Philip K. Dick’s science fiction novel VALIS in a Parisian bookstore. Based on a mystical vision Dick called his “pink light experience,” VALIS was an acronym for “vast active living intelligence system.” The metaphysical novel would become the basis for Machover’s opera of the same name, which first premiered at the Pompidou Center in 1987, and was recently re-staged at MIT for a new generation.
At the time, Machover was in his 20s and the director of musical research at the renowned French Institute IRCAM, a hotbed of the avant-garde known for its pioneering research in music technology. The Pompidou, Machover says, had given him carte blanche to create a new piece for its 10th anniversary. So, throughout the summer and fall, the composer had gone about constructing an elaborate theater inside the center’s cavernous entrance hall, installing speakers and hundreds of video monitors.