5 TED Talks about Music

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Music TED Talks

  • Bringing Light to Musical Rituals
  • David Byrne and the Built Environment of Melody
  • The Sounds Colors Make
  • The Capacity to Repeat
  • Transmutation of a Form, Musical Immortality
Many are close followers of TED talks about music. It’s a truism attributed to Beethoven that music acts as a bridge between the spiritual and the sensual realms. How does this universal human tendency move us, inspire and change our courses for the better? Below, we’ve compiled five of our all time favorite presentations to enlighten and entertain the music lover in everyone.

1. Bringing Light to Musical Rituals

Freeing music from the confines of industry standards has long been a mission of Vincent Moon. He began by filming the offerings of known and unknown groups in novel settings:
  • abandoned stairwells
  • cars
  • elevators
  • hotel rooms
He broadcasts them via his website. But the world is full of musical traditions. Some are sacred. Some are the engines that move local trends and viewpoints. Some bring a sense of defamiliarization to musical forms taken for granted. He calls it nomadic cinema. He uses it to show how music unites us as a species beyond the boundaries of:
  • culture
  • language
  • belief

2. David Byrne and the Built Environment of Melody

How does context influence the performance and creation of music? David Byrne is famous for his work with the Talking Heads and as a solo artist. He talks about how the architecture of performance space shapes our perception of music. Pieces crafted in the back rooms of local music clubs were:
  • sharp
  • edgy
  • tonally aggressive
They became a hallmark of the music scene of the late 70s and 80s. When they were performed for large audiences, they lost that bite for which they were known. It caused him to question whether composers throughout our species’ history have crafted their musical offerings for familiar contexts? Do we experience music most authentically in its original setting?

3. The Sounds Colors Make

We’ve long understood that music can:
  • communicate concepts or emotions
  • paint pictures
  • serve as tone poetry
But Neil Harbisson was born with a rare genetic condition that leaves him unable to see any color. His innate artistic sensibility refused to be set aside. He partnered with computer scientists to create a program. Using sound, he can experience color in a novel way—via his auditory faculties. In one of the most moving and inspiring TED Talks about music, he demonstrates the special headgear that senses the colors of the world in front of him. It transmits that information to a chip in the back of the device. It then creates a tone corresponding to a particular color. After internalizing the sounds that matched specific colors, he began to think and dream in color—demonstrating the adaptability of our brains.

4. The Capacity to Repeat

Michael Tilson Thomas traces our human musical journey via our capacity for musical notation. Early in the talk, he tells the story of a New York child at play. She bursts into a brief rendition of Mozart as he makes a victory lap around the bases. How did music written for the elite circles of 18th-century Austrian aristocracy come from the mouth of a child who’d just hit a home run in 20th century America? Thomas asserts that it is because what we call classical music is an unbroken tradition spanning more than a thousand years into our past. It transcends boundaries and cultural tastes. How? Because it is written in a way that anyone can access. It distills the essence of human experience and conveys it in a language all its own.

5. Transmutation of a Form, Musical Immortality

Jorge Drexler explores the survival and evolution of the Decima. This is a form of poetry that lived and died in Spain. However, its seeds were sown in the countries of South America. It was created more than 400 years ago. Each country in Meso and South America call it by a different name. But the cadence, line and rhyme structure, and overall form of the Decima remain unchanged. Drexler posits that this survival is due to the template’s innate musicality. As a species, we hold onto a melody, to tempo and note value, without a second thought. We pass these faithful memories on via communication. So it was with the Decima and its descendants. Are you a student of music? Are you a composer or simply a lover of all things musical? These lectures will inspire you to:
  • explore different forms of music
  • different ways of appreciating songs
They’ll provide a new context in which to understand their importance. TED talks about music are one of the most fascinating ways to educate yourself and your friends about the field and to discover more about its complexity.

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