The nonprofit conference program, TED, aims to bring together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Talks from TED’s two annual conferences have included the creative talents of musicians as well as innovators who have channeled music as their life inspiration. The following video clips stand out with illuminating ideas about music and the human experience.
Charles Hazlewood: Trusting the Ensemble– Conductor Charles Hazlewood demonstrates that “where there is trust, there is music” and “by extension, life.” The educational basis of the talk stems from Hazlewood’s experience of being a young conductor, when distrust between him and the players was detrimental to the music. As opposed to the idea of conductor (or teacher) as dictator, Hazlewood provides examples of how mutual respect engenders art. He conducts the Scottish Ensemble onstage to express his ideas, and also refers to clips of his inspirational works– Hazlewood formed an opera company in South Africa that performed a version of Carmen, and established an orchestra made up of disabled musicians called, Paraorchestra.
Claron McFadden: Singing the Primal Mystery– Soprano Claron McFadden performs an experimental piece (John Cage’s “Aria”) as well as a traditional one, and in the process, enables us to consider the mysteries of breath and song. Most notable is McFadden’s description of being asked to sing during a retreat in Thailand. In response to the request, she spontaneously sang a line from “Summertime” (Porgy and Bess) and found that creating those sounds embodied the “calmness, alertness, focus, awareness, and being in the moment” that she was looking for at the retreat. The physical creation of music as a meditation in the act itself.
Robert Gupta: Music is Medicine, Music is Sanity– Violinist Robert Gupta of the Los Angeles Philharmonic discusses meeting Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, the Julliard-trained double bassist whose career was cut short by his affliction with schizophrenia (Ayers’ story was told by L.A. Times columnist, Steve Lopez, in his book, The Soloist, which was also made into a film). Gupta received an e-mail request for a violin lesson from Ayers after they met briefly at a concert. The encounter, in which Gupta helped quell Ayers’ state of agitation by playing Beethoven’s violin concerto, is a profound example of the healing power of music.
Eric Whitacre: A Choir as Big as the Internet – Human expression and musicianship collide with technology to form this moving musical performance of Eric Whitacre’s composition, “Lux Aurumque,” which unites hundreds of tracks individually recorded and posted to YouTube. Whitacre conducts this virtual choir, which includes 185 voices from 12 countries. The concept stimulates discussion of broad themes, such as the future of music and communication across time and space.
Evelyn Glennie Shows How to Listen – Composer and percussionist Evelyn Glennie demonstrates that hearing music is not just about listening with our ears. Deaf since the age of 12, Glennie discusses how the vibrations and physicality of music influence her performances. Just as Glennie challenged the preconceived notions of music institutions during her lifetime, her talk pushes us to consider a broader spectrum from which to tap into when creating music.
Emmanuel Jal: The Music of a War Child – Hip-hop artist Emmanuel Jal has shared his turbulent story of how his family life in Sudan was shattered as a result of the Sudanese Civil War. He was swept up in the turmoil as a child soldier, and adopted years later by aid worker Emma McCune. In this talk, Jal’s impassioned rap performance pays tribute to his adoptive parent, appeals to rebuilding nations through education, and shows us how music can be a gateway to survival.
Itay Talgam: Lead like the Great Conductors – Conductor-turned seminar leader Itay Talgam samples clips of six different conductors to discuss styles of leadership. Talgam’s musical foundation has inspired him to promote the values of musicianship—collaboration, intuition, and listening—to leaders in a variety of different fields. Analysis of the conductors’ styles in this talk reveals how the best conductors “let go” and enable the musicians to tell their “story.”
Maya Beiser and her Cello – Maya Beiser performs radical new work for the cello through collaborations with visual artists and video artists. She discusses how her childhood in Israel was influenced by the sounds of Muslim prayers from the neighboring village, Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday, and Bach. “It all became music to me. I didn’t hear the boundaries,” she says. The amalgam of melodic styles, technology, and art inspires new ways of conceptualizing musical performance.
José Abreu on Kids Transformed by Music – Pianist, politician, and activist José Abreu discusses his creation of El Sistema Orchestra, which is comprised of impoverished children from all across Venezuela. Abreu’s vision has helped thousands out of poverty and continues to empower young people to work toward a common goal and promote justice in the world. His work is a living example of the transformative power of music.
Pamelia Kurstin Plays the Theremin – Pamelia Kurstin moves her hands through the air to produce strikingly harmonious music. What is she doing? She is playing the theremin, an electronic instrument composed of two antennae that control either tone or pitch through vibrations. She describes playing it as a “yoga instrument,” since even her breath is detected by the instrument. Kurstin’s performance and her description of playing it reveals the strange and wonderful confluence of human and machine.
But now I want to hear your opinion! Are these your top 10 TED talks for Music Education? Are there others you would add? Let us know what they are by leaving feedback in the comment box below and lets network together to collect the best resources for music educators.