Top Five TED Talks By Classical Musicians

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Michael Tilson Thomas gives a TED Talk in March 2012 Michael Tilson Thomas gives a TED Talk in March 2012

Last week we compiled our favorite places on the web to find free courses and lectures about classical music. One site that missed our list was Ted.com, the virtual home of the conference organizer, whose acronym stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. Through the years many musicians have offered their expertise on conferences stage.

For those of us who missed the live show, TED provides a video archive of its talks (Mashable recently reported that these TED Talks have received more than 800 million views online). Below we've compiled our top five lectures about classical music.

1. Benjamin Zander

Boston Philharmonic Orchestra conductor Benjamin Zander provides an eloquent and humorous look into the reasons why classical music moves people’s emotions in “The Transformative Power of Classical Music.” He begins with an anecdote of a shoe salesman, delighted to happen upon an island of unshod residents; “There are some of us who think ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’,” he says. Zander then demonstrates how a prelude by Chopin can completely alter a mood, or a simple thought can elucidate the meaning of Chopin’s music.

2. Michael Tilson Thomas

Building on a similar theme, Michael Tilson Thomas gave a TED lecture last year, “Music and Emotion Through Time” that showed how music progressed from the purity of tones sought by ancient Greeks and Medieval monks to the emotional diversity that came about with the invention of opera in the 16th century. MTT shows how advancements in harmony gave composers the ability to express nuances of the human condition, such as Beethoven, “who could share the experiences of a lifetime” within a 30-minute symphony.

3. José Antonio Abreu

In 2009, José Antonio Abreu, the founder of Venezuela’s El Sistema, the country’s high touted national music education program, gave a talk and TED prize acceptance speech in one. Abreu spoke of how El Sistema is at its heart a program of social rescue for lower income children and their families. The program’s most famous alumnus, Gustavo Dudamel, followed the talk by leading a performance with the program’s Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra.

4. Itay Talgam

Conductors are known as much for their musical as for their leadership skills. Itay Talgam, an Israeli conductor who left music for the business sector, noticed this aspect. In his talk “Lead Like the Great Conductors,” Talgam compares the managerial acumen of maestros, including Riccardo Muti, Leonard Bernstein, and Carlos Kleiber, with play-by-play analysis of video-taped performances.

5. Maya Beiser

As an artist who’s continually experimenting with technology and media, the cellist Maya Beiser is a natural choice to present at TED. In 2011, she demonstrated how she can to “build a whole universe” using only her cello and her voice (as well as some rather nifty audio-visual equipment). The talk also featured performances by Beiser of Steve Reich’s “Cello Counterpoint” and “World to Come,” by David Lang.

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