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University of Iowa News Release


March 12, 2008

Ying Quartet unveils Tod Machover collaboration March 29 in Hancher

The Grammy Award-winning Ying Quartet will unveil a new full-concert collaboration with composer and self-proclaimed computer geek Tod Machover from the MIT Media Lab at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 29 in the University of Iowa's Hancher Auditorium.

The public is invited to observe a free master class at 12:30 p.m. Friday, March 28, in Harper Hall of the Voxman Music Building.

Machover said at the beginning of the creative process, "My deepest interest is to make a new piece -- and an entire concert -- that will captivate, inspire and move your audience."

Hancher artistic director Judith Hurtig, who with her husband Richard is also the event sponsor, wrote, "I wouldn't give many artists such carte blanche as I gave violist Phillip Ying. But after two extended residencies and concerts with us -- not to mention their two successful years in Jesup, Iowa, as part of the Rural Residency Program -- the Ying Quartet, with their right-on musical instincts and integrity, have my total trust.

"In their quest to find new ways to make chamber music relevant in the day-to-day lives of people of all ages and interests, the Yings have teamed up with Tod Machover, composer, inventor and technology wizard of the MIT Media Lab. Here's what they have in mind.

"The first half of the concert, called 'Visualizing Music,' is in two parts. 'Visuals for Composing' includes music written by Machover using Hyperscore, software he developed that allows people who don't know traditional music notation to compose music. As the Yings play these pieces, you'll be able to follow note-for-note the scores, which will be projected on a screen behind the musicians.

"The second half of 'Visualizing Music' is 'Visuals for Listening,' focusing on Ravel's string quartet, which always evokes lyrical visual images. Using a new software he's developed called SoundSieve, Machover will create a visual interpretation on the large screen: 'What people will see will really help them to follow, listen to and hear the music.'"

"Following the intermission, the Yings will play Machover's '...but not simpler...' The reference here is a quote from Einstein: 'In life, you should always make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.' At its heart is a quartet written by Machover."

Machover wrote: "It has many layers that overlap and sometimes sound like they're moving in different directions, and the dynamic is created by the pull for those pieces to come together. The four players skitter and pull away from each other and keep coming back to common notes and phrases. In many ways, it's a reflection on how to find a kind of balance and connection between elements in today's world where things move so fast and are so fragmented."

The Yings gave Machover a free hand to embed this composition in a free-flowing sequence that includes music by Beethoven, Bach, William Byrd, Elliot Carter and the Beatles. As it is played in one continuous form, simple texture graphics and notes will be projected.

The Ying Quartet has a long history with Hancher and the UI, and an even longer history with the state of Iowa. In 1992 the four musical siblings from Winnetka, Ill., became part of the farm town of Jesup (population 2,000) as the first recipients of a National Endowment for the Arts grant to support chamber music in rural America.

The quartet participated fully in the community, performing on countless occasions for audiences of six to 600 people in a residency so successful that it was widely chronicled in both the national and international media.

During their time in Jesup, the Yings won the 1993 Naumburg Award, America's top honor for young chamber ensembles, and the quartet has continued to focus not merely on performing, but also on developing ways of making artistic and creative expression an essential part of everyday life.

As faculty members of the Eastman School of Music, they not only instruct the college's students and coach its chamber music ensembles, but also teach Eastman students to build community music programs based on the Ying Quartet experience in Iowa.

The Yings made their Iowa "homecoming" in 1997, in a Hancher-sponsored residency that included a return visit to Jesup and focused primarily on the UI medical campus, in collaboration with the Project Art program of the UI Hospitals and Clinics.

They returned again in 2002 for a three-week residency through the Arts Across the Curriculum project, involving schools in Iowa City, West Branch, Cedar Rapids, Wellman-Kalona, Columbus Junction and Mt. Vernon.

The Yings' pioneering spirit has reached far beyond Iowa. For several years the quartet presented a series called "No Boundaries" at Symphony Space in New York City that sought to re-imagine the concert experience. Collaborations with actors, dancers, electronics, a host of nonclassical musicians, a magician and even a Chinese noodle chef gave new context to a wide variety of both traditional and contemporary string quartet music.

Their ongoing LifeMusic commissioning project has significantly expanded the contemporary string quartet repertoire.

Machover -- who the Los Angeles Times dubbed "America's Most Wired Composer" -- is the inventor of Hyperinstruments, a technology that uses smart computers to augment virtuosity for artists including Yo-Yo Ma, Prince and Peter Gabriel. He is also the creator of the Toy Symphony, an international music performance and education project, and his MIT research group is examining ways to combine music and technology in therapy for emotionally and physically challenged individuals.

Machover is also the co-founder and chairman of Harmony Line Inc., a Boston-based company devoted to developing musical tools and techniques to extend creative music making to everyone.

Pulitzer Prize-winning music critic Lloyd Schwartz wrote: "What's most exciting about Machover's pieces in general is how beautiful and moving they are, what lyrical and exotic melismas keep surfacing (and how scintillatingly they contrast with the shattering electronic textures), how dramatically they build, how they haven't a dull moment, and what magnificent opportunities for performers they provide."

In awarding Machover the first Kurzweil Prize in Music and Technology in 2003, inventor and entrepreneur Raymond Kurzweil wrote: "Tod Machover is the only person I am aware of who contributes on a world-class level to both the technology of music creation and to music itself. Even within these two distinct areas, his contributions are remarkably diverse, and of exquisite quality."

The March 29 event is supported by Richard and Judith Hurtig through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets are $40/35/32; UI student $36/15; senior citizen $36/31.50/28.80; youth $28/24.50/22.40.

The Hancher Auditorium business hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial 319-335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered online at

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail at

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.


STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Judith Hurtig, Hancher Auditorium, 319-335-1136,; Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073 (office), 319-430-1013 (cell),