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2013 Edinburgh International Festival Launches New 'Cauldron' App

Today the Edinburgh International Festival launched a new web-based application called 'Cauldron', the next stage in the development of Festival City, a new work commissioned from composer Tod Machover which will premiere at the Usher Hall in August.

With the help of the public, Tod is composing a short piece of music celebrating Edinburgh and its Festivals with residents, visitors, and fans are being called on to send in sound files which capture their memories of Edinburgh. These files will form the basis of a creative work which Tod will develop into a full orchestral piece and a 'sonic portrait' of the city.

Cauldron is one of two apps designed by Akito Van Troyer and Tod Machover at the MIT Media Lab, Boston. The first, Constellations, was launched in early May. Both apps allow users to experience and play with sounds already submitted to Festival City, creating their own sonic mix.

How does Cauldron work? (

The app contains a stack of audio samples which are dragged and dropped into the main 'cauldron' window. Swirl them around, and users see and hear the contents of the cauldron come to the boil. They can also grab and shake individual sounds to single them out and then dissolve their contents into the mix. The slower and gentler you stir, the smoother will be the blend; the faster and wilder you stir, the more contrasting layers you will uncover.

Users can then record, save and play back their work, and then upload the finished brew to share their work with Tod and other participants in Festival City. Tod will be listening to all Cauldron compositions as they arrive, and incorporating them creatively into the performance version of Festival City.

New features and sounds will be added regularly over the coming weeks. Each time there will be something new to add to the Cauldron.

With this project Tod Machover reaches beyond crowd sourcing to a new level of creative interaction and exchange. Working in Edinburgh this week he said:

'I am delighted to be here in Edinburgh testing this new app I've created with my team. With Cauldron we grow closer and closer to the idea of a sonic portrait of Edinburgh. I want Cauldron to give users a feeling akin to standing on top of Arthur's Seat and absorbing the entire city at once. Having spent time working the RSNO and different school groups across Edinburgh, I've been directly inspired by their enthusiasm and energetic input, and am excited to share further the sounds created through Cauldron'.

FESTIVAL CITY: This new work will be created through a Festival partnership with the public, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, its new chief conductor Peter Oundjian and the celebrated Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab where Tod Machover is based.

Tod Machover is recognised as one of the world's most imaginative and influential composers, known for his music technology inventions, from a Hypercello for Yo-Yo Ma to the innovations behind computer game sensation Guitar Hero.

Festival City receives its world premiere in the Usher Hall on Tuesday 27 August in City Noir, a concert which includes music by Christopher Rouse, Verdi, Bruch and John Adams, starting 8.00pm.

There will also be a lecture demonstration at 5.00pm the same evening offering everyone the opportunity to hear directly from Tod Machover, Peter Oundjian, Festival Director Jonathan Mills and members of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra on the process, highlights and challenges of bringing together this massive collaborative piece of music.

Jonathan Mills, Festival Director said, 'Edinburgh is a wonderful city in which so many International Artists and visitors come together to celebrate culture, against a backdrop of one of the world's most beautiful urban and natural landscapes. It seems very appropriate to acknowledge the city's central role in the identity and success of the Festival through Festival City, a new innovative work for sound and orchestra by acclaimed US composer Tod Machover. In a year in which we focus on the way in which artists use innovation in their surroundings to reimagine artistic processes and results, it is very fitting to have Tod, as such an exceptional innovative and collaborative talent, involved. I very much look forward to engaging in the process and following its progress towards the Festival in August.

The call for public contributions continues through June and submissions, ideally from 5 to 20 seconds, will be accepted through the Festival website, email, Facebook and SoundCloud or dedicated phone lines. For more information on submitting your recorded sounds and the project as a whole is available on

Constellations the web app is now live and allows users to link sounds submitted and generated to date. These patterns and collections of sounds will contribute to the next stage of the project. CONSTELLATION was designed especially by Akito Van Troyer and team at the MIT Media Lab. Machover said: 'It lets you take sonic material from the emerging composition - recorded/submitted by the community or created/composed by me - and then reshape, modify, morph and personalize it to create the version that you like best. It has a fun and somewhat addictive interface that lets you move the mouse over clouds of bubbles to create "constellations" of interrelated sounds. These constellations can be recorded, played back, shared with others, and iteratively modified, becoming your own musical "score" made from this material'.

At the beginning of July the collaborative phase comes to a close allowing Machover to finish work on the score before delivering it to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra to prepare for the premiere on Tuesday 27 August.

Tod Machover is recognized as one of the world's most imaginative and influential composers, and is also known for his music technology inventions, from a "hypercello" for Yo-Yo Ma to the innovations behind Guitar Hero.

In addition to composing boundary-breaking works for instruments and electronics, Machover seeks ways to actively involve the public in music-making, through projects like his interactive Brain Opera or the Hyperscore composing software system. He is also celebrated for his innovative operas, including the "robotic" Death and the Powers which was Finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize.

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