You know TED talks as the small bites of information that can transform the world. From science to technology and even religion, they have the ability to impact the world around you. But as a musician, I can tell you that TED has more rhythm than you might think. I present you 10 TED talks every musician needs to hear.
1. Yes, the one and only Sting takes you through his journey, but more importantly, he takes you through his own writer’s block. For the man who spent much of his life telling his own stories and revealing his own emotions to the world found his muse again in the stories of others. For we must ask ourselves as musicians, is the joy in telling our own stories or those of others?
2. Folk Singer Joe Kowan made it clear that stage fright was not a choice for him. He acknowledges his irrational fear of the stage and provides a unique insight into the path of those seeking to overcome it. In hilarious fashion, he shares is musical journey that led him from physically incapacitating fear to giving his very own TED talk for you all to see.
3. Mark Ronson is a British musician, DJ, singer, and record producer, but let me go ahead and simplify things for you by telling you he is the guy from the Uptown Funk video with Bruno Mars. Chances are, if you stop at a red light only to see some high school kids cutting a rug in the car next to you, it is probably to Uptown Funk. But lest you think Mark is merely the muse of rhythm challenged kids across this nation, you might want to hear his take on “sampling” as it is known in the industry. For he argues it is not the theft spawned by a lack of creativity you might have envisioned. But rather, it is the injecting oneself in the story and music of another to tell it from a unique and unheard vantage.
4. Kirby is a New York based film maker who would take Mark Ronson’s claim that borrowing is not theft and take it to the next level to say that all creativity is borrowed. Utilizing iconic singer Bob Dylan he makes it clear that we all borrow, steal, and transform to make the genius we see today. This spans not only music but technology all the way to the very IPhone on which you might be viewing this. For they claim it is the words that matter and if you must sing high when they sing low or sing fast when sing slow to make it your own, do so with pride.
5. Michael is an American conductor, pianist, and composer who passionately speaks to the transcendence of music and emotion through time. He muses watching kids play baseball in Brooklyn only to see them replicate 18th century Austrian aristocratic music as their triumph march. How did that get passed on he asked? In what world, would a kid from Brooklyn chant aloud the music of 18th century Austrian aristocrats? For the story that could take music along this path is one well worth enjoying.
6. Amanda Palmer is a musician who is as eccentric as she is creative. But then again, aren’t the two one in the same. She describes her journey from street artist to massively successful crowd funding musician. She makes it clear that it is time to start insisting that others pay for music and rather finally give them the opportunity to simply let them pay for music. Pop stars allow the many to enjoy from a distance but artist allow the few to enjoy from up close. What say you?
7. But let’s talk about creativity. Beardyman would describe himself as polyphonic and his desire to not be limited by human anatomy when it comes to music. Through the use of technology, he will not only enlighten you to the new world of music technology can bring but he will open your mind to what the full capacity of the musician’s mind has to offer.
8. Music composer and associate professor of music composition, Mark Applebaum takes you through the journey of who he is as a musician and makes it clear he wears many hats. He is more than who he seems and he would claim that you as a musician are indeed more than who you seem. He creates his own instruments and instantly declare himself to be the world’s best musician at the very instrument he just created. Take note musicians, and enjoy.
9. But let’s not forget about the story. Often as musicians, it is easy to forget that we are indeed telling stories. Sting has awakened you to the endless muse that other’s stories can be. Michael Tilson Thomas has spoken to you about how it can transcend centuries. But listen to Emmanuel Jal. Listen to this child solider from Africa speak to you about the power of telling stories that others cannot tell for themselves. My fellow musicians, let us consider how we give voices to the voiceless.
10. Finally, I will leave with this talk from Benjamin Zander. For Ben speaks of possibility like few others I have ever heard. He explains classical music to others and by the time he is done, you can’t help but think he has converted the entire crowd. There is a story we tell as musicians and these 5 TED talks remind us of this impact. And as Mr. Zander so succinctly brings it home in this video, we are speaking to the part of each person who believes in the possible. I have seen that same look in the eyes of the most affluent citizens of America and in those of the most impoverished children in Guatemala. Possibility is a fascinating event when it takes hold of the heart through music. Keep writing, keep playing, and keep living life my fellow purveyors of possibility.