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The toy behind Michael Tilson Thomas’s love of dissonance

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Discover the Grammy-winning conductor, pianist and composer. A National Medal of Arts recipient and longtime music director of the San Francisco Symphony, he helped set the standard that an American orchestra should champion modern American music. “American Masters—Michael Tilson Thomas: Where Now Is” premieres nationwide Friday, October 23 at 9 p.m. on PBS.

(bright piano music) - From the time I was a teenager going to music camp, it was noticed by the counselors that I really liked dissonant music.

(sharp dissonant piano chords crashing) And I always tried to figure out where that might've come from.

I think it may have come from my dad and from Toodles and Toodles, well let me introduce him to you.

He's right up here.

This is Toodles and Toodles has a song and his song goes.

♪ I love a Toodle song.

♪ I love a Toodle song ♪ I love my Toodle song ♪ I sing it all day long.

That was the Toodles song.

I, and my dad said, 'Well, and Toodles himself can play the song for you.'

And here he's gonna play the song.

And here he goes.

(dissonant piano music) And so I'm convinced that from that came my great love of.

(dissonant piano music) All these chords that I later encountered in Schoenberg and Berg, and Ives and everywhere else.

Because what to those composers had represented psychological distress and torment to me represented gorgeous, peaceful times you know, surrounded by my dad and playing music together.

That was a pretty good performance.

Don't you think?

We, well, we haven't done this for years, guys.

Thank you, Toodles.

We haven't done this for years.

(bright music)