To Aldeburgh for the second @TedXAldeburgh event – as curious about the TedX form as I am about the matters under discussion.
Not surprisingly there was considerable geekery being openly admitted to – and demonstrated. Not least in Eric Whitacre’s A Choir as Big as the Internet – though I’d heard about the project it was the first time I’d actually seen it.
But for me the two main themes – which became intrinsically linked in @theNitinSawhney’s key note – were around patterns across art forms and the purpose of music and indeed art itself.
Arriving slightly late thanks to the joys of an hourly train service our event started with music generated by and of birds and ended with Brian Duffy talking about the songs of stars and the universe. Starting with a childs music box it concluded with the modified toy orchestra. Play, experiment, make, patterns.
Kathy Hinde – an artist interested in exploring the worlds of music and visual arts – created soundscapes from the movement patterns of birds on telepgraph wires in Portugal. The birds movement triggering sounds on a prepared piano – creating Piano Migrations. It looked beautiful and sounded strangely ethereal. Kathy tells me its been going down a storm wherever it goes.
Akala (@akalamusic) explored the rhythmic patterns of hip hop and Shakespeare – demonstrating how the iambic pentameter of Shakespeares ‘Shall I compare thee’ (sonnet18) to both a hip hop and a grime beat. It was finding these connections – these patterns – which was the key to introducing thousands of young people to Shakespeare.
Sawhney talked about the Natya Shastra ( a spelling I had to check with him later!)– an ancient text set down in 200BC – which as a Manual of Dramatic Arts calls for all the different art forms to work together – how they interact to create a specific response from the audience (a specific bhava). And we like to think multi disciplinary art is something new and of the moment. Behind him ideas and thoughts flickered ‘a scuplture does not create the sculpture – its already hidden in the stone’.
Before we get to the second main theme a brief diversion to the post lunch graveyard slot bravely taken on by Prof Vincent Walsh on Neuroscience and Creativity. Want to be creative (in sports or arts). Well first put in the hours (the grind). Then give your brain a break – the greatest creativity comes when your off line, when your relaxed. Allow those ideas when your off line to incubate, to develop. Then justify them, road check them. And thats your recipie for creative success – oh and be a little crazy, dont confuse knowledge with familiarity, keep it simple and be courageous. At least thats what I understood…
The second major theme (for me at least) of tedXaldeburgh was a quiet answering of the question Nitin Sawney poised in his key note. What is the point of music – or indeed of all art?
Akala kicked it off in the morning session. We are all born loving to learn (he argued) – just for many of us its beaten out of us. Later in the afternoon in his TED talk Dave Dougherty argued – we are all makers – we have the ability to make our own world and by the very act of making we can figure things out. The cellist Peter Gregson (@petergregson ) touched on the ‘expressive quality of imperfection’ – echoing something viola player Jennifer Stumm had talked about earlier in the day ‘in limitations we find possibilities’. Thomas Heatherwick might put it another way – its about finding the soul, re imagining, thinking differently, sideways even.
[The Ted X audience explore the Mechanical Toy Orchestra]
It was that expressive quality the Sawhney picked upon at the climax of his talk. Sawhney talked eloquently and simply about how he had come to understand that each individual has a unique voice, a unique sound which is your identity – and which no one can take it away from you. He found his through music, through the patterns of collaboration, difference and exploration.
Inspiring stuff – but which also left a question hanging in the air…how many of us are able to find and express our true voice –no matter how imperfect. We definately saw one young person who was finding her voice. Hannah Brock (part of the Aldeburgh Young Musicians the East version of South West Music School which I’ve referenced before) performed The Flight of the Typhoon on the Chineese Harp the Guzheng… a substantial part of her tuition had been via a Chineese master over skype.
Who are the custodians of the knowledge akala had asked earlier? Who are the custodians who help us to find that voice? Not every one is born with the talent of a Brock, a Stumm or a Gregson (or indeed get the opportunitites that Stumm, Hetherington and Sawhney described). Later Dolby would reference the role of the arts in communicating complex ideas. We didn’t talk (well you dont talk at TED – random things are thrown at you) about how arts and technology help everyone find their voice. Its a thought that bugs me on the train journey home.
In true TedXAldeburgh style I suspect the answer will be a pattern but I’m not sure which one. Think I’ll take Prof Walsh’s advise and ‘rest’ on it….
But to finish heres one pattern in ‘musical’ form – The Modified Toy Orchestra!