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Inspiring TED Talks That Will Change How You Think About Music

Cara Anderson
| December 16, 2016

Music exists as one of the essential pillars of human creativity and as such it comes as no surprise that the beloved lecture series TED Talks frequently turns its stage over to the arts’ great thinkers and performers. We rounded up our favourite talks on the subject.

Megan Washington: Why I live in mortal dread of public speaking

Since childhood Megan Washington has had a stutter. This talk got a lot of traction in the press and for good reason: watching Megan Washington stand starkly alone on that giant stage while explaining her stutter, you can’t help admiring her courage. Washington explains the therapeutic idea of “smooth speech” and how singing became her self-prescribed treatment as a child, and then her livelihood.


David Byrne: How Architecture Helped Music Evolve

Pop music icon David Byrne, asks us to consider whether it is the venue, the event or the composer that defines music. By exploring the enormous impact that space and acoustics play on the reception of sound, Byrne reveals the influence that changing room structures has had on music throughout history.


Evelyn Glennie: How to truly listen

Astonishing deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie redefines what it is to listen. She discusses the complexities of listening and why we must listen with our entire bodies rather than just our ears. She challenges us to listen to sound in its purest form and to consider how we can interpret people beyond their words.


Andrew Bird: A one-man orchestra of the imagination

Andrew Bird is one of the most imaginative and innovative composers working today, constantly utilising different sounds and techniques to create music. He starts his talk by looping together layers of different instruments, vocals and whistles before explaining exactly what he’s doing. It’s a dynamic demonstration that shows the potential of one-person orchestras.


Charles Limb: Your Brain On Improv

Dr. Charles Limb explains the science behind hearing music. It’s more than just a physical sense — people who are born deaf and receive a cochlear implant can hear, but they can’t quite process music. He demonstrates that music transcends the physical senses.


Mark Ronson: How Sampling Transformed Music

Music producer and DJ Mark Ronson’s talk show us how sampling has totally changed how we think about music. Whereas in eras past we might have criticised artists who didn’t write a whole song themselves, we now accept samples as a new kind of instrument.


Robert Gupta: Music is medicine, music is sanity

Robert Gupta, a violinist and doctor, demonstrates in this talk that the worlds of music and health are deeply and intrinsically linked. With examples of the healing powers of music therapy on people with mental illnesses, Gupta makes the point that music helps us transcend our own bodies and reminds us of the beauty that exists in the world.


Michael Tilson Thomas: Music and emotion through time

Michael Tilson Thomas is a renowned conductor and music educator. In his talk he traces the development of classical music through the development of written notation, the record, and the re-mix.


Itau Talgam: Lead like the great conductors

Italy Talgam reveals the secrets of world’s greatest conductors, their specific foibles and their extraordinary ability to lead hundreds of musicians through the world’s most challenging works. Discover how a conductor allows a space for music to be created whilst maintaining control and how their leadership styles can be incorporated into everyday business.


We hope that our round up has piqued your curiosity or moved and inspired you in some way.


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