5 Music TED talks you need to watch

Written By Lizzie Arnold on 08/22/2014


Founded in 1984, TED talks have inspired us, challenged our perceptions of the world, offered us advice, entertained us, held a mirror up to society, and opened our eyes to a new world of fun and possibility. Their catch phrase is “Ideas worth spreading,” and among other things, music can truly benefit from the words and fresh forward thinking of it’s industry leaders. Here five music-infused TED talks to stir your curiosity and tide the time over until 5:30 Friday knock off.

“How sampling transformed music”

Mark Ronson – Music producer and DJ

He has produced music for the likes of Amy Winehouse, Adele, Lily Allen and Bruno Mars and in 2008 he won the Brit Award for Best Solo Artist. While it may seem like a lifetime ago since we have heard an album drop from British DJ, producer and all-round turntable whizz kid Mark Ronson, earlier this year (May to be exact), saw him grace the stage for his first ever TED talk. His topic choice? Sampling.

Why you should watch it?: Well, did you know Miley Cyrus‘ song We Can’t Stop is a sample of La Di Da Di, Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick’s 1984 hit? Ronson’s effortlessly original 18minute speech shows a short, yet informative and entertaining look at how the sampling of music has evolved into, and influenced every corner of the modern music industry. Sampling isn’t about “hijacking nostalgia wholesale,” says Mark Ronson. “It’s about inserting yourself into the narrative of a song while also pushing that story forward.” Just as smooth as he is with the decks, he sprinkles his performance with an unexpectedly cheeky sense of humour which is an added bonus.

“The Gloves”

Imogen Heap – Songwriter and composer

With five albums under her belt, the relentless experimenter Imogen Heap, has always been a fan of music electronica. Leaping onto the TED stage for the second time, in 2012, she serves up an all-inspiring, all-body, mesmerising feast for the senses. As a trained composer, multi-instrumentalist and uber talented singer, Heap playfully brings to life her passion for samples, technology and of course, her music.

Why you should watch it?: If you have a curiosity for the future of music, then this TED music talk is right up your alley. While we do not want to spoil all the fun for you, it can be said that technology and music together are capable of creating a unique and beautiful experience – and Imogen Heap truly has the music in her hands…

“Engineering a viral music video”

Adam Sadowsky – Videographer, entrepreneur and actor

Who is Adam Sadowsky? Well, everybody knows the OK Go video for Here it goes again – 52 million of you in fact. He is the genius behind that viral video and many more thereafter. Sadowsky is the president of Syyn Labs – a collective of talented people that bring aesthetics and engineering together to create really nifty interactive art. Basically this guy, is an ideas man. As emerging technologies and social media have changed the face of music forever, bands such as OK go have had to think outside the box, to get themselves noticed – using the internet and Youtube as their primary promotional tool.

Why should you watch it?: “Music, machines and life.” That’s how Adam sums it up. If you are a fan of getting that “behind the scenes” scoop on a video, or you are a self confessed music nerd, then you need to watch Adam Sadowsky. Even if you are not a big muso, you will appreciate the painstaking work, machinery and effort which goes behind these viral success stories.

“How I started to write songs again”

Sting – Singer/Songwriter

Sting is a legend amongst artists – well, that’s what my mother tells me. He’s sold over 100million albums and received 16 Grammys, but who knew that he has a terrible case of writers block? As an artist and a performer he continues to grow but also surprise, and this TED talk is no exception.

Why should you watch it?: You are hearing from the best, and although his style may not be about all about the head-banging, his story is genuine and insightful. He’s just like everyone else. In a lyrical, confessional talk, Sting also treats you to songs from his upcoming musical, and to an encore of “Message in a Bottle” – one for the oldies!

“Why I live in mortal dread of public speaking”

Megan Washington – Musician

Megan Washington is one of Australia’s premier singer/songwriters. She has won ARIA Awards in 2010 for “Best Female Artist” and “Breakthrough Artist” following the release of her album, I Believe You Liar. Prior to going solo, Washington played jazz piano with various acts and founded a band called Washington, borrowing her last name. The lyrics of Megan Washington’s songs have a beautiful, confessional tone: she sings about heartbreak, insecurity, rage, you name it. But there is one thing that Washington avoided sharing publicly before stepping on the stage of TEDxSydney 2014: that she has a stutter.

Why should you watch it?: Firstly, she’s an Aussie. Tick. Secondly, good on her. I had a speech impediment when I was younger and it sucks. Here’s a talk to make anyone shy or scared, leap out of the shadows.

And one more for good measure…

“Playing invisible turntables”

James “AudioPoet” Burchfield – Human beatbox

Why should you watch it?: Short but sweet. I don’t think this needs much of an explanation.