Music and Technology in Death and the Powers

Jessop, E., Torpey, P., Bloomberg, B. NIME’11, 30 May–1 June 2011, Oslo, Norway


In composer Tod Machover’s new opera Death and the Powers, the main character uploads his consciousness into an elaborate computer system to preserve his essence and agency after his corporeal death. Consequently, for much of the opera, the stage and the environment itself come alive as the main character. This creative need brings with it a host of technical challenges and opportunities. In order to satisfy the needs of this storyline, Machover’s Opera of the Future group at the MIT Media Lab has developed a suite of new performance technologies, including robot characters, interactive performance capture systems, mapping systems for authoring interactive multimedia performances, new musical instruments, unique spatialized sound controls, and a unified control system for all these technological components. While developed for a particular theatrical production, many of the concepts and design procedures remain relevant to broader contexts including performance, robotics, and interaction design.

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