Tod Machover is head of the MIT Media Lab's Hyperinstruments/Opera of the Future group. He has composed five operas and helped to develop many groundbeaking musical technologies -- including Hyperinstruments, a technology that augments musical expression for both virtuosi (from Yo-Yo Ma to Prince) and amateurs, and Hyperscore, software that allows anyone to create sophisticated, original music by using lines and colors. Many of Machover's principles about "active participation" in music are exemplified in Guitar Hero, which grew out of his lab.
Among his current projects is a new opera, Death and the Powers, complete with a musical chandelier, animatronic walls, and an army of robots. Death and the Powers premieres in Monaco in September 2009.
A recent focus of Machover's group has been on Music, Mind and Health, which marshals the power of music to promote well-being. Working with long-term patients at facilities such as Tewksbury Hospital, north of Boston, the group's goal is to develop personal musical activities that adapt to the particular skills and needs of each individual. In this way, the path to health becomes as rewarding as learning an instrument, composing a symphony, or premiering at Carnegie Hall.
A resident of Tewksbury Hospital in Massachusetts, Dan Ellsey has cerebral palsy and does not walk or speak. He does, however, write and play his own music, and mentor others, through a groundbreaking music system developed by MIT's Tod Machover and his team, including grad student Adam Boulanger. Working closely with this team, Ellsey helped to develop and fine-tune a head-mounted interface, tweaked to respond to his movements, that allows him to compose music and to conduct nuanced performances of his work. Hyperscore software helps Ellsey notate his musical ideas.
Ellsey's work has been performed at MIT, on the radio and at workshops around the Boston area. The Lowell Symphony Orchestra performed his piece "Our Musically" at a 2004 concert for residents of Tewksbury -- many of whom count Ellsey as a mentor in their own musical education.