DETROIT — The sounds of the city have long been an inspiration to composers — think of iconic soundscapes from Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue to Bernstein’s West Side Story score. There is a difference, however, between creating music inspired by a city — but still wholly executed within the context of a symphony — and literally making music from urban sounds.
It is this latter ambition that drives composer and MIT Professor of Music and Media Tod Machover. In Detroit this year, Machover sought to replicate a project that he first executed in Toronto in 2012–13, creating Symphony in D, an original sound portrait of the Motor City in partnership with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO). Using 15,000-plus sound bites recorded and submitted by people all over Detroit, as well as his team, Machover wrote a five-movement piece that was performed in the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center on November 20 and 21. It combined the audial minutiae of everyday Detroit with the creative power of the DSO, and live contributions from a diverse host of special guests, too.