“Thinking about Thinking” lecture series at AUA

On Friday, February 24, 2012, American University of Armenia and Luys Foundation inaugurated a new lecture series called “Thinking about Thinking.” This series invites speakers who are world leaders in the sciences, humanities, arts, engineering, media, business or social entrepreneurship to come together with young people, researchers, and professionals in Armenia who welcome thinking differently, unconventionally, and looking at things from new perspectives. The intent of the lecture series is to expose students to cutting-edge ideas in research, development and scholarship that are changing the face of the world today.

The first lecture in this series was presented by Prof. Todd Machover, composer and inventor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Laboratory, and was entitled “Opera of the Future”. During the lecture, Prof. Machover described how barriers to musical expression are being overcome through new tools and technologies, from animated operas to virtuosity simulators like Guitar Hero, to medical devices that use music for rehabilitation and general well being.  Prof. Machover also explained how a new “musical ecology” is developing which links people across generations, geography, and “genius” levels to provide more deeply integrated and satisfying experiences for individuals and societies.

 An active question and answer session followed the lecture.

This lecture marks the beginning of what we hope will be a successful long-term collaboration between Luys Foundation and AUA, and we were particularly pleased to host Prof. Machover as the first speaker in the series.  He has been called “America’s most wired composer” by the Los Angeles Times, and is celebrated for his boundary-breaking compositions as well as for inventing new technologies in music industry.  As a founding member of the MIT Media Laboratory, he has pioneered the development of “Hyperinstruments,” which use technology to extend the expressive range of traditional instruments and make active music-making accessible to all, from musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma and Prince to children and players of the computer game “Guitar Hero,” which grew out of his laboratory.

Prof. Machover is also renowned for his innovative operas, including the Brain Opera and the recent “robotic” Death and the Powers, which premiered last year at the Monte-Carlo Opera (under the patronage of Prince Albert II) and is currently on world tour.

Prof. Machover spent the day after this inaugural lecture working with a remarkable group of Armenian students, aged 10 through 12, who have used his software to compose both symphonic and rock music.  On Saturday, February 25, they practiced during the day with the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, who then performed a concert of the childrens’ music that evening at the Philharmonic’s Khachaturyan Hall, in a separate event sponsored by Luys Foundation.

Prof. Todd Machover The audience listening to Prof. Todd Machover’s speech