Tod Machover
Tristan Jehan
(software, audio analysis, generative algorithm)
Help from Mike Fabio (sound design, sound mixing)

Sparkler is a rapid, delicate tour-de-force that presents one musical vision of the future when acoustic orchestras and interactive electronics might be seamlessly combined. It explores many different relationships between orchestra and technology, sometimes contrasting the two worlds, sometimes complementing one with the other, yet at other times blending the two into a new whole. Three keyboards play and modulate much of the electronics. Unlike many previous works where only solo instruments are amplified or electronically processed, in this piece microphones capture the entire orchestral sound, which is analyzed live into "perceptual parameters" turned into complex electronic extensions. These instrumental sound masses (which are performed with a certain freedom by players and conductor) turn the whole ensemble into a kind of "Hyperorchestra."

The piece was commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra and Carnegie Hall as part of the 2001 "Orchestra Tech" festival. Sparkler was premiered at Carnegie Hall on October 14, 2001, and is performed as the opening work on each Toy Symphony concert. It exists in both 13 minute and 7 minute versions, and is published by Boosey & Hawkes.

Video excerpts from the Glasgow concert (11.6 Mb)
with the BBC Scottish Symphony and Gerhard Markson

Video excerpts from the Berlin concert (11.1 Mb)
with the Berlin Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester and Kent Nagano

Audio excerpts of Sparkler at the World Financial Center Winter Garden in New York city, performed by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, conducted by Gil Rose:

Sparkler excerpt 1
Sparkler excerpt 2
Sparkler excerpt 3
Sparkler excerpt 4
Sparkler excerpt 5

ICMC 2002 paper on the project
More details on the performances