Tod Machover and Nerri Oxman
March 28, 2014 - September 15, 2014 @ Le Laboratoire Paris
October 31, 2014 - March 22, 2015 @ Le Laboratoire Cambridge
Vocal Vibrations, created by composer and inventor Tod Machover with designer and architect Neri Oxman, both professors at the MIT Media Lab, invites visitors to enter a group meditative chamber where they listen to Machover’s 10-channel “Chapel” composition based on vocal recordings of soprano Sara Heaton and the Blue Heron Choir, directed by Scott Metcalfe. Centered on a single meditative tone, this inspired and masterful music blends ancient vocal traditions and futuristic sonorities, creating a powerful journey that is both bracingly alive and deeply comforting.
Visitors then pass through a tunnel – designed in Paris by Bold Design – that leads to the “Cocoon” for an individual listening, singing and vibrating experience. Augmented through the newly invented, magical oRb, created by Tod Machover and his team at the MIT Media Lab in collaboration with Paris-based designers Julien Benayoun and William Boujon, each visitor listens with great intensity and focus while holding their voice in their hands—literally. A parallel experience of disembodied vibration is created by Neri Oxman’s stunning Gemini chaise, designed in close collaboration with MIT Professor W. Craig Carter, and printed using Stratysys’ unique 3D printing process, that closes around a participant and transfers vocal vibrations to the surface of the chaise.
"The human voice is our most personal instrument, available to everyone – through our everyday speech as well as through all forms of musicality,” said Tod Machover. “Vocal Vibrations is an attempt to unleash the vast potential of personal vocalizing, for aesthetic pleasure as well as for cognitive and physical stimulation and relaxation. The combination of being immersed in a complex sonic environment following a single central tone, imitating it with the voice, and feeling vibratory reinforcement in both public and private contexts does feel to me like the beginning of a new kind of musical adventure.”
“For the first time my team and I have explored the combination between subtractive and additive manufacturing in the design of a full-scale architectural work – the Gemini chaise,” said Neri Oxman. “Gemini is made of more than 40 materials with unique pre-set mechanical combinations relating to pressure points around the body and forming a sensorial landscape. The 3-D printed skin is designed to absorb sound and provide for a quiet calming environment. The wooden shell supporting the skin includes several holes that can potentially act as resonating chambers located in strategic zones."
The team behind Vocal Vibrations studied the techniques of traditional Buddhist chanting meditation and possibilities for extrapolation and enhancement with Tenzin Priyadarshi, founder and director of MIT’s Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values. With Al Grodzinsky, an MIT expert in tissue and cartilage, as well as serious violist – they explored how vocally-produced vibrations could be directed to different parts of the body and could be expected to influence circulation and equilibrium in critical areas such as joints. The MIT and Le Laboratoire teams discussed a special environment that could reinforce the trajectory of this contemplative and sensorial experience, and collaborated on the final exterior design for the oRb.
About Tod Machover
Tod Machover, called “America’s most wired composer” by The Los Angeles Times, is recognized as one of the most innovative composers of his generation, and celebrated for inventing new technologies for music, from a Hypercello for Yo-Yo Ma to the technologies behind Guitar Hero, which grew out of his Lab. Machover studied with Elliott Carter and Roger Sessions at The Juilliard School and was the first Director of Musical Research at Pierre Boulez's IRCAM in Paris. He is the Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music and Media at the MIT Media Lab (Cambridge USA) and Director of its Opera of the Future Group. Machover was also Visiting Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London. CD and DVD recordings of his Pulitzer Prize-finalist "robotic” opera Death and the Powers was released in early 2015, and six World and European premieres were presented at the 2015 Lucerne Festival, as part of Machover’s Composer-in-Residence appointment there.
About Neri Oxman
Designer and architect Neri Oxman is the Sony Corporation Career Development Professor and Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Lab. She was named to ICON’s list of the top 20 most influential architects to shape our future (2009), and was selected as one of the 100 most creative people by FASTCOMPANY (2009). In 2008, she was named “Revolutionary Mind” by SEED Magazine. Her work has been exhibited at MoMA (NYC) and is part of the museum’s permanent collection. In 2012 the Centre Georges Pompidou Museum (Paris, France) acquired her works for its permanent collection. Other exhibitions include the Smithsonian Institute (Washington, DC), Museum of Science (Boston, MA), FRAC Collection (Orleans, France), and the 2010 Beijing Biennale. She is the recipient of the 2014 Vilcek Prize in Design.