David Byrne’s TED Talk

David Byrne gave a TED Talk last February, which has now been posted online. TED is a  nonprofit organization that devotes itself to what it calls “Ideas Worth Spreading.” It started in 1984 as a conference that brought together leading practitioners from the worlds of design, entertainment, and technology. It now sponsors two annual conferences — the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK each summer — as well as a number of other programs.

Speakers who are invited to give TED Talks “are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).” Here’s how Byrne describes his talk:

My own talk (it wasn’t a musical performance) was based on the idea that the acoustic properties of the clubs, theaters and concert halls where our music might get performed determines to a large extent the kind of music we write. We semi unconsciously create music that will be appropriate to the places in which it will most likely be heard. Put that way it sounds obvious … but most people are surprised that creativity might be steered and molded by such mundane forces. I go further — it seems humans aren’t the only ones who do this, who adapt our music to sonic circumstances — birds do it too. I play lots of sound snippets as examples, with images of the venues accompanying them.

The talk makes a nice follow-up to our Faculty Resource Network seminar on the idea of “Lost New York,” because Byrne (a crucial member of the downtown scene that we discussed in our consideration of the work of Arthur Russell) talks about  the relationship between architecture and music. He even begins with CBGB, which cropped up frequently last week.