7 Insightful & Inspirational TED Talks for Musicians

7 Insightful & Inspirational TED Talks for Musicians

by Florine Church

This article is an excerpt from 20 Incredible TED Talks for Both Music Students and Lovers on the BachelorsDegree.org blog.

No matter what your passion in life, TED probably hosts an intelligent — if not outright provocative — video on the subject. Considering that music exists as one of the essential pillars of human creativity, it comes as no surprise that the beloved lecture series frequently turns its stage over to the arts’ great thinkers and performers. Professionals, students and fans alike can easily spend an entire day immersing themselves in all the relevant videos TED has to offer. Even the ones not listed here still bring up some interesting points and expose music lovers to new genres and concepts they may not otherwise know about, so give them a watch as well. The following, however, particularly stand out for either their main thesis, creative innovation or some lovely combination of the two.

1. David Byrne: How architecture helped music evolve

David Byrne is so cool he could power a room full of cryogenic pods just by staring at them. Here, he channels his impressive experiences playing everywhere from CBGB and Tootsie’s to Carnegie Hall and Disney Hall to discuss the impact that architecture held over his compositions. Everything had to be written to suit the challenges of a specific space, and Byrne broadens his observations to encompass the whole of music history. He even points out similarities between this phenomenon and similar concepts found in nature, using sparrows and tanagers as an example.

2. Benjamin Zander on music and passion

Although concepts behind classical music flow throughout his lecture, conductor Benjamin Zander uses the multifaceted genre as a springboard towards broader ideas and phenomena. Social conditioning, cognition and emotion all factor into this intriguing relationship, and he starts out by discussing the role of impulse in creating, performing and reacting to classical pieces. In addition, the lecture also delves into cultural perceptions of Chopin and other masters. Zander’s clear, almost manic, adoration of classical music infects the audience, however, and fuels his desire to open the world up to everything it has to offer them creatively, emotionally and intellectually.

3. John Walker re-creates great performances

Another great video appealing to music aficionados and performers with a great love of technology and computers. Today’s recording features allow users to analyze more than just pitch and tone — some are so sophisticated they can even detect nuances in key pressure and pedal use. Subsequently, the information can be fed into a computerized piano which replicates the original human concerts almost flawlessly. This is an especially exciting development when it comes to preserving older recordings and classic performances whose age threatens their stability. Future generations can appreciate the movements, pieces and people who inspired and paved the way for today’s innovators.

4. Jose Abreu on kids transformed by music

Even those who never personally experienced or witnessed such situations still understand and appreciate the redemptive, therapeutic and wholly transmogrifying power of most things musical. For 30 years, Jose Abreu has fronted the El Sistema Orchestra, comprised of impoverished children from all across Venezuela. His admirable work, for which he received a TED Prize in 2009, provides them with opportunities to succeed in education (and, subsequently, life) through musical prowess. It breaks down social, political, economic, religious and racial barriers in order to teach them how to be a part of something greater than themselves and work tirelessly in the pursuit of a common goal. Many El Sistema alumni have gone on to perform with prestigious orchestras worldwide, but their dedication and passion also vastly improve their home communities as well. Abreu’s TED Prize wish asks for 50 more aspirant musicians to receive all the training necessary to promote justice in the world, in addition to a program similar to El Sistema organized in the United States. Though his work leads him to inspire children, this amazing man hopes that others will bring music therapy, education and career opportunities to other marginalized demographics, such as the ailing.

5. Adam Sadowsky engineers a viral music video

Emerging technologies and social media have changed the face of music forever, and bands such as OK Go discovered creative ways to yield the internet as a promotional tool. Even those who don’t much enjoy their music still appreciate the imagination and painstaking detail that goes into their viral videos. “This Too Shall Pass” charmed audiences in early 2010 for its immensely clever, highly competent use of Rube Goldberg-inspired engineering — and, as intended, quickly went viral. In this illuminating TED Talk, the man behind the plan reveals the methods behind designing and building the wondrous machinery that became a massive online hit.

6. Sivamani: Rhythm is everything, everywhere

Sivamani, a percussion expert, performs one of TED’s most electrifying, innovative musical sets yet. He merges the musical traditions of myriad nations and utilizes instruments as diverse as water jugs, luggage and even the audience itself! One does not have to boast any musical training whatsoever to appreciate the man’s envious creativity and desire to experiment within his chosen art.

7. Bobby McFerrin hacks your brain with music

This article is an excerpt from 20 Incredible TED Talks for Both Music Students and Lovers on the BachelorsDegree.org blog.