Marsha Music

The Detroitist

Symphony in D!



Tod Machover of MIT Lab in Boston,  is an internationally known and lauded composer – Musical America Composer of the Year, 2015  – and electronic music heavyweight and phenom – inventor of Guitar Hero, among other things – came to Detroit to create a Symphony,  inspired by the music and sounds of Detroit.

Chad Rochkind, liaison for the DSO, one my young Detroit friends, the logistics man for this project, leads him to me, so that we can talk about the history, music and sounds of Detroit. I was honored to be asked to be a part of this exciting project.

A documentory film for PBS is being made about the production by Executive Producer Marlon Johnson and Dennis Scholl. I am proud to represent the D.


It all started for me, here: I meet Chad Rochkind and Tod Machover, who came to my home in the spring of 2014. We talk about Detroit’s history, music and sounds.



They told me about Tod’s ideas for Symphony in D. Here’s an early video of the project.


Soon, we visited some of Detroit’s amazing historic sites, and Tod’s engineers from MIT Sound Lab recorded the sounds that they encounted; here at the recently reopened Belle Isle Aquarium, with Michele Young Hodges, Belle Isle Conservancy Director. They recorded thousands of sounds, from all over Detroit and historic installations and sites. 10923190_10204021903769407_2408451339821539387_n


We visited Can Art Handworks, a architectural metal shop owned and operated by iron master Carlos Nielbock, left, sound man Ben Bloomerg, right; and artist David Philpot (my hubby) right. Bloomberg ad the sound crew recorded the sounds of the various metalworks and lampposts.11012859_10204203717714642_6046889209342360074_n


Here we are at Salt & Cedar, a artisan print shop in the Eastern Market, where Tod recorded the sounds of the letterpress works11205027_10204204450172953_3312902222971174349_n


Here with the amazing Ben Bloomberg, sound engineer from MIT Media Lab. 10255810_10204205929449934_2281385365036750210_n


Tod and Garrett Kohler, at Assemble Sound, Garrett’s historic church that he’s turnd into a recording studio and performance space. Tod recorded Techno and Rock sounds here. 10312508_10204622247617628_7756685490476835974_n


Garrett welcomes musician and cast for a pre-show dinner.12177186_10205147535949508_827993707_o


Here we are, assembled at Assemble


Rehearsal day. The children from Detroit Achievement Academy, and their teacher – the girls each said a few words about what they wished for Detroit. 12249880_10205275956679946_9027858077818387037_n


Maestro Leonard Slatkin backstage with the elders from American House, assisted living communities in the Detroit metro area, who talked about the sounds of Detroit that have disappeared.


Video, two weeks before the debut…..


Maestro Leonard Slatkin, Yours Truly, Composer Tod Machover and Adam and Nicola of electronic music group Adult. 12239871_10205276688818249_8168003162408696765_n


DSO’s liaison to Symphony in D, project Director Chad Rochkind – logistics man for the whole undertaking, organizing site visits and recording sessions all over Detroit


Tod and the women of the amazing St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Choir who sang in Symphony in D12243219_10205275916478941_8343114649256909430_n-2


Maestro Leonard Shatkin and assistant conductor weave together the orchestra and the recorded sounds. He was intense and determined to present this progressive work. 12274591_10205275923279111_1524084059393082825_n


Efe Bes, African drummer, a Detroit musical treasure12239896_10205275951559818_5757808787827645047_n


Yours truly backstage at the DSO, ready for the Friday morning performance.

{Hat by Connie Parham, Detroit, fiber art by Lynette Halalay,
Jewelry, the Peacock Room, Lisa Reese, Nate Muccioli, and watch, Shinola}



The sign on our dressing room; that’s when I knew this was really serious12243023_10205275962080081_191909670772473532_n


JaHipster, aka Dr. Tonya Matthews, Director and CEO of the Michigan Science Center

and Yours Truly, Marsha Music, backstage 12390854_10205408289708189_4039287032080863078_n


Friday afternoon Finale 12278821_10205280693918374_2490752826066105436_n


Yours Truly, backstage before Saturday night’s performance,

{Tulle headpiece courtesy Randall Jacobs, evening sweater by Lynette Halalay, jewelry from Peacock Room, Nate Muccioli, Lisa Reese, watch, Shinola}



A rehearsal break; yours truly, Tod and members of the amazing Chaldean Choir12240409_10205276688418239_2810133293908006430_o


Yours truly (Marsha Music) and spoken word poet JaHipster12299332_10205289019566510_6402867956411068814_n


The final performance! (I come on at about 13:00)


Marsha Music (yours truly) reading Memories and Dreams, at the DSO for Symphony in D



Finale of the Saturday night performance – a standing O, and the applause went on and on!906071_10153846662498953_3616180853071903079_o-2

A post-concert review by Sara Rose Sharp.


After Symphony in D, some of the MIT Media Lab staff who made it all possible. 11986447_10205288999846017_2558318184725570119_n


Next morning, tired but happy at Craftwork restaurant in West Village – Tod Machover, Efe Bes, yours truly, and Tod Machover – playas, after we played.12239719_10205288994965895_1040359137697872495_n

The next Sunday, The Free Press published my poem, Memories and Dreams, and the poem written by Dr. Tanya Matthews – in  a full editorial page – a wonderful affirmation of our incredible experience, our contribution,  and the significance 0f Symphony in D.12316346_10205321207371185_635259816478193575_n-2

Back stage at Orchestra Hall in the Max Fisher Center, after our triumphant matinee debut of Symphony in D. Composer Tod Machover over my shoulder; MIT sound engineer Ben Bloomberg, far left and administrator Simone Ovsey; Dennis Scholl, filmmaker and Marlon Johnson far right – exec. producer of their documentary film on Symphony in D; and others integral to the production.






                                          MEMORIES AND DREAMS


From the mire and murky loam,

Bottom Black with Dusky soil

The First People walked this land

Heard the river’s rush and roar

Near the water Savoyard

there in battles took a stand

made the fateful crimson flow

near the strait called Le D’etroit

From Black Bottom’s swamp and fog

Green and verdant ribbons grew

lush farms risen from the bog

furs and stoves and ironworks

From the briny underground

there arose a great world noise

symphony of city sounds

sights and wonders to behold

Hear inventions’s hum and clang

foundry’s fire and factory’s bang,

listen to assembly lines,

hear production’s sturm und drang

Hear the hiss of molten iron

turning into Model A’s

listen to the shouts of hires

working for five dollar days.

Nations gathered in this place

varied hues and diverse face

working people prospering

but segregate the darker race

clack and clatter of streetcars

sounds of great Grand Central trains

immigrants and great migrations

streets are packed between shift change

Come from Europe, up from South

workers moving all about

roads and streets exhaling steam!

hiss and whining of machines

Autos rolling off the line

make the rhythm of the time

Hark! the notes of human toiling

hear the shouts of labor’s roiling

Moneymakers pulling strings

busting blocks, dividing streets

profits made by real estate

instigating fright and hate

driven out by greed and guile

leaving city streets behind


Sounds of flight across 8 mile

did naught to stop the city’s sound

Blues and Jazz and Gospel flowed

and record shops were all around

but came the news from City Hall

Black Bottom is to be destroyed

And then to make a new freeway

Hastings Street gets wrecking balled

Black Bottom gone, and Hastings dead

So many to the Westside fled

But drum rolls for equality

all went unheard, no scrutiny

and so the rage and fire burned

in ‘67s mutiny

Generations now have gone

destruction changed the city’s song

But now their children do return

From exile, coming back to learn

With sounds of electronica

and Techno beats made in this town

I open arms to welcome them

The ones who really want to live

amidst we folks who never left

Reside together with respect

Some say they come to save Detroit

But I say, they come to BE saved.

Marsha Music, copyright; all photos by Marsha Philpot and David Philpot