“Jazz music’s new messiah” —The Guardian
Imagination Off The Charts—Jacob Collier at MIT: A unique project—Jacob Collier’s first-ever college residency—brought together the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble, MIT’s Ben Bloomberg and other members of the MIT music community.
In 2014, Collier began working with MIT’s Ben Bloomberg (a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab) who helped transform Collier’s video productions into live one-man-show performances. Bloomberg also designed and created a custom unique Vocal Harmonizer, which has provided Collier a vehicle to simultaneously combine his vocal and keyboard talents live.
Collier’s December 2016 residency at MIT—culminating with a major concert in Kresge Auditorium on December 10—involved several first-time elements. Collier and the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble (FJE) with additional musicians presented the premiere of an experimental piece crafted by Collier. Several new big band arrangements of Collier’s music were also featured, two of which were crafted by MIT alumnus Jamshied Sharifi and one by Collier himself. The concert also included Collier performing some jazz standards with the FJE as well as some solo performances.
Founded in 1963 by Boston jazz icon Herb Pomeroy and led since 1999 by Dr. Frederick Harris, Jr, the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble (course 21M.442), is comprised of outstanding MIT undergraduate and graduate students studying a wide range of disciplines. The FJE is a 2013 recipient of MIT’s Laya and Jermone B. Wiesner Award in the Arts. It is the only MIT entity that has earned this recognition three times (previous awards in 1991 and 1982), a testament to its consistent high quality over many decades. FJE has released five professional recordings including its major jazz label debut release on Sunnyside in 2015, Infinite Winds (a joint CD with MITWE). The CD which features FJE performing the world premiere recording of Chick Corea’s From Forever (composed for FJE), received a five-star review from Down Beat and was chosen by the magazine as one of its “Best Albums of 2015 Five-Star Masterpieces”—the first such recognition of its kind for a collegiate ensemble. The Boston Globe called the recording “one of the most compelling of 2015.” The FJE has a long history of performing original music by MIT students and composers from around the world. Since 2001, it has presented over 40 world premieres. Mark Harvey, Herb Pomeroy, Jamshied Sharifi, Ran Blake, John Harbison, Chick Corea, Joe Lovano, Kenny Werner, Don Byron, Steve Turre, Magali Souriau, Guillermo Klein, Bill McHenry, Chris Cheek, Miguel Zenón, Dominique Eade, Eviyan and George Schuller among others have worked with the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble.
Since starting MIT in 2007, Ben Bloomberg has worked for Professor Tod Machover at the Media Lab, touring internationally to design and support technology for Opera of the Future productions. He specializes in the design and implementation of advanced surround sound and audio systems for large venues, but he has created many kinds of live performance systems ranging from musical instruments to architectural lighting. Ben started running sound at age nine and has since engineered hundreds of shows in venues all over the world—his designs have been praised (with their associated performances) by critics for the the London Times, Chicago Tribune and Wall Street Journal. In his time on the road, he’s crossed paths with many artists, engineers and designers—from Björk to Ariana Grande, people seem to seek him out when there’s a challenge that hasn’t been seen before, requiring novel and highly customized solutions. At the lab and beyond, Ben works with his close friends to build systems which push the limits of performance and expression. Their goal is create technology which brings the performers closer to the audience instead of diminishing them in the presence of large screens or sets.
Jacob Collier’s visit to the Institute was part of MIT Sounding, an innovative annual performance series that blurs the boundaries between contemporary and world music. Curated by Evan Ziporyn, Faculty Director of the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology, the 2016-17 season of MIT Sounding integrates the avant-garde sounds of ancient instruments and traditional practices with cutting-edge composition and technology to present various visions of a new, evolving music that defies genre.
Learn more about the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble
Learn more about Ben Bloomberg
Jacob Collier is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, arranger, composer and producer, based in London, England. Hailed by many as one of the most prodigious and innovative musicians and thinkers of his generation, Jacob has proven himself worthy of every superlative that has been used to describe him. Spreading joy amongst a multitude of generations with a glorious child-like energy, an old soul, a knowledge of music that is second-to-none, and a tremendous warmth of humanity, Jacob’s style is flabbergastingly unique, combining elements from every genre under the sun — and his world is easy to get lost in.
Jacob, who is mostly self-taught, has been creating music for all of his 23 years. In 2012, he began to share some of these creations with the world via YouTube. These self-produced multi-layered multi-tracked audio-visual creations, borne from his family home in London, began to attract ears from all over the world, racking up tens of millions of views. One day in 2013, Quincy Jones’ ears reached Jacob’s sounds, and he signed Jacob to his management label, to help bring some of his ideas to life.
In 2016, Jacob released his debut album, “In My Room”, which was entirely self-recorded, arranged, performed and produced in his home in London.
Jacob then set out to bring his room to the stage. With the help of MIT PhD student Ben Bloomberg, he designed and built a groundbreaking one-man live performance vehicle which defies the musical laws of nature, featuring a circle of musical instruments, six simultaneous multi-instrumental loopers, a custom-designed vocal harmoniser instrument, a real-time reactive multi-Jacob video screen, and one Jacob in the centre of it all, The first ever performance was held at the Montreux Jazz Festival, 2015, where Jacob opened for Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. Minds were blown; goosebumps were risen. Jacob set out to tour the world.
From winning two Grammy awards for his debut album, to playing 150 shows in 26 countries on his One-Man-Show World Tour; to collaborations with Hans Zimmer, Herbie Hancock, Pharrell, Tori Kelly, Snarky Puppy, Metropole Orkest, Samsung and Apple; to speaking at the TED Conference 2017; to harmonizing hundreds of fans’ #IHarmU melodies to crowdfund his musical adventures; to teaching masterclasses and confounding music theorists around the globe with chords and rhythms that shouldn’t exist; to improvising circlesongs with musicians on the streets of the world; to simply walking through the rain — Jacob’s life is full of different colors. He learns new things every day.
More on the artist’s website: Jacob Collier
2018-19 MIT Sounding Series
Infinite Harmony: Jacob Collier at MIT
Saturday, December 8, 2018 / 7:00pm
MIT Kresge Auditorium, W16
48 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA
$25 general admission and $10 for MIT community
Following the success of his 2016 MIT large-scale concert and subsequent New England Emmy-winning documentary about that event, two-time Grammy winner Jacob Collier returns to MIT for a new concert experience including music yet to be heard along with selections from his celebrated debut album “In My Room.”
With the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble, three MIT choirs (Concert Choir, Chamber Chorus, William Cutter, Director, and Vocal Jazz Ensemble, Laura Grill Jaye, Director), a symphony orchestra comprised of MIT and area music students, and Collier’s new band, this premiere event includes innovative collaborative arrangements.
Co-produced by MIT’s Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST) and MIT Music and Theater Arts, Music Director Frederick Harris, Jr. collaborates with Ben Bloomberg, Peter Torpey, and the MIT musical community and beyond exploring Jacob Collier’s latest creative wonders.
2016-17 MIT Sounding Series
Rehearsal with the Festival Jazz Ensemble
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Masterclasses and Rehearsals
December 6-10, 2016
Imagination Off The Charts—Jacob Collier at MIT
Saturday, December 10, 2016 / 8:00pm
MIT Kresge Auditorium, W16
48 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA
Jacob Collier and the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble (FJE), with additional musicians, present the premiere of an experimental piece crafted by Collier. Featuring several new big band arrangements of Collier’s music, two of which are crafted by MIT alumnus Jamshied Sharifi and one by Collier himself, Collier performs jazz standards both solo and with the FJE.
“The Creative Process of Jacob Collier”
Wednesday, December 7, 2016 / 5:00 – 6:00pm
MIT Lecture Hall 6-120
182 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA
Free and open to the public, no reservations required
Jacob Collier discusses and demonstrates facets of his process of composing and arranging music.
Jacob Collier at Berklee College
Wednesday, September 29, 2016
Red Room at Cafe 939
939 Boylston Street, Boston, MA
About the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble
Boston Globe: MIT ensembles tackle innovative works on CD, onstage
Down Beat: Best Albums of 2015
Down Beat: Review: Bigger and Better
Fred Harris, Director of Wind and Jazz Ensembles, Department of Music and Theater Arts
Ben Bloomberg, Opera of the Future Research Group, MIT Media Lab