Andrew Bird takes over the TED stage
From the TEDitorial team’s fabulous Liz Jacobs:
I’m super excited about tomorrow’s TEDxPenn event in Philadelphia. Maybe I’m a bit biased because I just graduated from Penn and now work at TED, but this weekend’s conference is shaping up to be a great one.
Inspired by the University’s year-long exploration of sound, this year’s TEDxPenn theme is “Creating the Sound." Penn is at the forefront of cutting-edge research in fields as diverse as bioengineering, cinema studies, entrepreneurship, and ethnomusicology, and TEDxPenn is poised to help the University’s brightest minds share their ideas beyond the ivory tower.
In the spirit of this weekend’s event, I gathered together seven of my favorite talks that showcase the off-beat and mind-blowing sounds that have been shared on the TED and TEDx stages. These talks illustrate the incredible ways we communicate ideas through sound. Enjoy!
**Andrew Bird’s one-man orchestra
An awe-inspiring meditation on music and how we make it. Andrew Bird’s genius electric loops of violins, xylophones and his own whistling create a euphony at TED2010 that’s both mesmerizing and inspiring.
**Sound health: Julian Treasure at TEDxYouth@Manchester
We need to take control of our soundscapes to create a more beautiful sound world, says Julian Treasure, speaking on the stage at TEDxYouth@Manchester. Treasure has devoted his life to studying the sound in the world around us, and in this talk, he offers tips on how to keep your ears healthy and your outlook positive.
**Pamelia Kurstin plays the theremin
Without laying a finger on her instrument, Pamelia Kurstin electrifies TED2002 with the theremin. This unusual electronic instrument operates on sound waves, which create a harrowingly beautiful sound as Kurstin seemingly creates sound out of thin air. (Bonus: check out another theremin performance by Lydia Kavina at TEDxGhent!)
**The world’s ugliest music: Scott Rickard at TEDxMIA
The world’s first pattern-free piano sonata.
What makes music beautiful? Mathematician Scott Rickard deconstructs the patterns and rhythm that make music to our ears, and shares a piece of music so ugly, that only a mathematician could write it.
The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (by gichristof)
Ever wonder what the world sounds like with a hearing implant? At the moment, it’s not the best. One person describes it as hearing everything through a robot voice, and more complex sounds, like music, are almost impossible to comprehend.
Tone and timbre — what make music sound like music — get lost with a cochlear implant, a highly controversial, surgically-implanted device that allows the deaf and hard of hearing to experience sound. Without picking up on timbre, for example, you can’t distinguish the sounds of one instrument from another, so you can’t hear what’s a guitar and what’s a flute if they play the same note.
Now, two scientists are out to change that. A new electronic processing system for implants is currently being developed by electrical engineer Les Atlas and bioengineer Jay Rubinstein at the University of Washington (home to TEDx event TEDxUofW). This new system makes implants more sensitive to complicated sounds, a huge breakthrough that not only makes music sound better, but also helps users distinguish between sounds in a noisy room, which — right now — is really difficult to do with a cochlear implant.
Below — what a pretty famous song sounds like through a normal cochlear implant, thanks to Seattle radio station KPLU:
And now — the same song through Alas and Rubinstein’s new implant:
(If you didn’t pick up on it, that is “Scarborough Fair” by Simon and Garfunkel.)
While we’ve got you thinking about cochlear implants, you can learn more about their relationship with music in Charles Limb’s TEDMED talk on the subject. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t tell you to check out Rachel Kolb’s inspiring TEDxStanford talk on deaf culture and advocacy in a world so often geared toward the hearing:: "Navigating deafness in a hearing world."
We all know the guitar, the drums, and the bass. But do you know the Sea Board? The Theremin? Yeah, same here. (Well, some of us knew about the Theremin, but — you know—music nerds at every company.)
Below, three utterly unique musical performances unlike anything else you’ve heard:
Welcome the Sea Board: Roland Lamb at TEDxAlbertopolis
Imagine if the notes on a keyboard blended seamlessly into one another, more like a slide guitar than a piano. What you’d get is the Sea Board, a new organ/guitar/piano hybrid that produces a beautiful, haunting sound. If you think it sometimes sounds unsettling (and we’ll admit, we do), that’s because the player’s fingers linger “off-pitch” in a range of millitones between the notes that comprise the chromatic scale. Here, Roland Lamb, inventor of the Sea Board, narrates an eerie, fascinating performance.
The new old theremin: Lydia Kavina at TEDxGhent
When you watch a spooky ghost film, know what instrument often makes that eerie background music? A Theremin. It’s seriously one of the coolest instruments we’ve ever seen: you play it without even touching it. Musicians move their hands near two antennas, one for pitch and one for volume, and — voila! — music. In this performance at TEDxGhent, the undisputed queen of Theremin, Lydia Kavina, shows the instrument’s expressive power.
ComputeMusic(now): Andrew Sorensen at TEDxQUT
Can you code music? Andrew Sorenson sure can. He developed his own coding language to allow him to create music on the fly without pre-programmed software or external instruments — just algorithms. Above, you can watch the delightfully nerdy magic as he literally builds his song piece by piece, adding, subtracting and morphing layers of sound via code.