TED Conversations

Scott Armstrong

TEDCRED 50+

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Think of a song that really turns you on (to quote John and Paul). What is it about it that makes it so good?

Is it the lyric?
- meaning?
- cadence?
Is it the melody?
Is it more about crystalline musicianship?

Do you choose your music because it belongs to a genre you relate to?

Or are you attracted to songs regardless of how they are categorised?

Is it important for a band to have political leanings? Or do you think the best bands are all about the entertainment?

Feel free to list your favourite songs/bands/musician.

I don't get the whole DJ thing, but maybe you can enlighten me on that too..

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    Jun 19 2011: A particular song, musician can reach me for different reasons; it depends on my mood and the context-if I'm listening to it live, in the quiet of my home, at a party, doing house work, running, working, driving, etc- and I'm always open to learn to appreciate music or artists unknown to me or that I never thought I would like.

    I was never a big fun of opera until I saw one live. I was completely mesmerized with tears pouring down my face, also the passion with which the conductor was directing made it even more compelling.

    I like connecting with the lyrics of a song but sometimes I simply like a song regardless of the lyrics; It may only be a piece of music and if it's accompanied by dance it can take me to a whole different level. It's all about the emotions that arise in me when I listen to it, sometimes, I don't only hear music and lyrics, I see choreography, lights, story, images...
    The only song I recall liking from a DJ is Stem/transmission 2 from DJ Shadow. I listen to it when I'm angry.In my prime I used to dance to it and afterwards felt releived.
    I can't list favourites because there are too many but amongst what I've been listening to lately are these:

    Charlie Winston- Like a hobo
    Ayo- Down on my knees
    Adele- Rolling in the deep
    Yodelice- Sunday wit the flu
    Lauryn Hill unplugged- Mr intentional/Oh Jerusalem/ I get out
    Paolo Nutini-New shoes
    Stand by me-Playing for change/Song around the world
    Cee Lo Green-Fuck you
    Zazie-Je suis un homme
    Tracy Chapman- Talking about revolution
    Janis Joplin- Cry baby/ Ball and chain/ Get it while you can
    Bebo y Cigala- Se me olvidó que te olvidé
    Otis Redding-Sittin' on the dock of the bay
    Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Amstong- They can't take that away from me
    James Brown- I feel good/Sex machine
    Kt Kunstall- Black horse and the cherry tree
    Jake Shimabukuro- While my guitar gently weeps
    Nina Simone- My baby just cares for me
    Sammuel Barber- Adagio for strings
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        Jun 20 2011: Thank you :-) Paris, Tracy Chapman...you are one lucky lady, It must have been a truly amazing experience. She is indeed very talented, I love her songs, her voice and her humility too.
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      Jun 20 2011: I guess you are right - it often comes down to how you are feeling. I'll sift through my CD stack and let how I'm feeling dictate my playlist too.

      Lyric is really important to me but melody can really lift the words and take them to another level of emotional clarity. Sometimes.

      Mostly, I like a good vibe, groove, beat, tune, feel. Nothing like a good bit of dirty old rock n roll to cut loose to when you feel like you've had enough.
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        Jun 22 2011: Lyrics are important to me too however sometimes I may not understand a single word but I'm still moved or get up on my feet dancing away. I sometimes really like the lyrics of a song but hate the singer's voice or their style.
        Sometimes I can completely change my mood by listening to a certain piece of music. I may be sad and music uplifts me or I may be happy as ever and then a song will play on the radio that reminds me of someone or some event and I wallow in melancholy. Of course it's always a choice, but music has great power over me, I can't control things such as goose bumps nor tears, nor tapping feet or head shakes...and I simply love that.

        This is my song of the day
        http://youtu.be/TOJIQjd-aPg
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      Jun 22 2011: Its the lyrics, the melody, the memories, the mood, the dreams..

      This is mine
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSq4B_zHqPM
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        Jun 22 2011: Storm Front - an album I loved as a younger man. Great piano-man..
  • Jun 26 2011: I recently heard Blowing in the Wind by Peter, Paul and Mary and felt compelled to listen to it in its entirety. Still relevant, seemingly timeless

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIFxbOZezhE
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    Jun 22 2011: It's ancient
    It's evolving
    It's contagious
    Every human can feel music with the whole body, not just the ears.

    Every time I can sit down and really listen to my choice of music, I am reminded what a phenomenal and strange connection humans have to rhythm.

    Rhythm is predictability. When you keep time, your brain calculates when the next beat will come. Studies have shown that apes cannot keep time. However we know that cockatoos can. How weird, right?

    The results show that it's because an affinity for rhythm comes from the language parts of the brain. A bird that can learn to speak words by imitation, just like a human child does, can thus learn a time signature. With practice, any human can perfect this art. I recently realized why music is very much like a drug and I am addicted to it. It has to do with the anticipation factor of listening. When you keep time and you anticipate a part of the song or beat, you are hot-wiring the reward center of your brain to be energized on every beat that you anticipate correctly. The same part of your brain that correlates any reward, like sex or chocolate.

    The following are my favorite TEDs concerning music;

    Evelyn Glennie shows how to listen

    Benjamin Zander on music and passion

    It's quite amazing what music actually does to your brain. If you are a flaneur like me, you may find the time to watch this mind-blowing documentary;
    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-music-instinct-science-and-song/

    I must say that I am not thrilled at all by a specific genre. I have some musicians that I go back to, but I really go with the flow and always hunt for the freshest audio-cocktail. I stay the hell away from Top-40 and the radio too. But that is my personal preference. Some songs that I currently love;

    Kevin drew
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPa4Rf0nvQw

    Morning Teleportation
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKTbbf4z1PQ

    Animal Collective
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuLdCWnuTa8
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      Jun 22 2011: Agree with the predictability but when a melody defies that expectation, fleetingly, that's when it grips your chest and thumps.

      So difficult to define but that's most likely the beauty of it..

      Cheers for the links.
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        Jun 22 2011: I think for some it might be melody, for others rhythm or texture. That is a matter of taste. The part where you and I are in complete agreement is where your expectations are shattered! What an exhilarating feeling. Much like life itself!
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    Jun 20 2011: I love this one- something about its rich tones and weird combinations work for me:

    http://youtu.be/Et4FoPzBF5k

    And this one is meaningful to me:

    http://youtu.be/0eF06fNK3Ng
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    Jun 20 2011: i am always interesed in lyrics when listening to a song(sometimes singers are like story tellers) and melody is important too.but love psychedelico is the only Japan band that i listen to without understanding the lyrics.

    most of the time i choose music becuz it belongs to a genre i like.some music are for entertainment while some are for digging in.i dont perfer they have strong polictial leanings cuz it easy for people make judgement before they see the whole thing.so if i am about to spread music usually dont like to impose ideas but rather write somthing more generally and boardly like freedom,love, peace...ect.

    my favorite band is always coldplay for their genuineness and talents as musicians.
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      Jun 20 2011: Good call on the political thing - Midnight Oil are about the only politically driven band whose music is not just a weak vehicle for the message (that I know).

      I also like the freedom, peace and love call. War is Over.

      Music has an incredible ability to rise above all else and connect people in ways like nothing else.
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    Jun 25 2011: If there is a song that better epitomizes what music is and can do than the piece "Music of the Night" I don't know what it could be...

    Here it is as performed in The Phantom of the Opera:

    http://youtu.be/n5dhyiqhR7Y
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    Jun 25 2011: Just to get it out of the way,

    So much music that is made is very close to being junk. (Not junk because the intention to create music in and of itself is precious) I'm referring to such things as teen angst and self-absorbtion masquarading as music and it has always been a turn-off for me.

    It’s frustrating to try to break down why I need music. I just do. For all of the things you mention in your question.
    I think all good art is to be consumed, but music is the only art form for me that is for immediate consumption. Whenever I want, I can take a little music to stimulate moods, thoughts, physical energy, sleep, a sense of tranquility, sadness - everything!!!

    In my work with children it is my most powerful teaching tool. Pretty much everything I teach I use music to teach it. But that's my work. The kind of music I listen to personally tends to be a mix of poetic lyrics and brooding melodies.
    But I can be captivated by almost any genre and style of musical expression.

    I think music and entertainment are two separate things. To make a living, an artist must "entertain".

    Van Morrison is notorious for his disastrous stage performances. I saw him once do nothing but mumble his lyrics and growl at the audience. It was fascinating to witness, but not very entertaining! He has said that he dislikes the whole idea of standing in front of strangers and pouring his artistic heart out. I've seen him also give tremendous performances...

    Here is Ray Charles and Van Morrison singing “Crazy Love”:
    http://youtu.be/TyCAZRKXaQk
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      Jun 25 2011: I agree I love some music - dislike others which I dont even consider music.

      But music and entertainment need not be two separate things. Plenty of music can be both excellent music and entertaining.

      This for example:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKhmFSV-XB0

      or this:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qecULT01iE
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        Jun 27 2011: It doesn't get much better than Sarah Brightman... I've been following Jackie Evancho - she is an extraordinary singer.

        Did you take a look at the video below from Phantom of the Opera/"Music of the Night"? Amazing piece of performance art.
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      Jun 26 2011: Hey Jim - I agree that the 'rock n roll, fuck you mum and dad' ethic is a load of rubbish.

      The greatest laugh I have had at rock n roll is when we first saw illegal downloading on the scene. After decades of promoting rebellion and individuality, the music industry were suddenly talking about adhering to copyright laws and spieling on about how the poor artists are missing out!

      I guess there are a lot of different folk out there and, depending on age, sex, beliefs, different things resonate. I know there's a lot of music I really liked as a spotty teen that I consider rubbish now.

      There is also a lot of stuff that 'the kids' like that I think is purile and stupid
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        Jun 27 2011: I'm not a person who just flips on the pop radio when I'm in the car. I'm not an easy listening kind of person. I don't dance. (I love to watch people dancing) I like to deeply listen to my music. Not that it's that complicated (I still struggle with some jazz and classical music) but the music I listen to requires that I be quiet and listen closely...to everything.
        Richard points out that music and entertainment are intertwined and I sometimes deny it, but it's true. Art and entertainment are connected. They both give pleasure. But when it comes to Brittney Spears and Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga and the like I just don't consider that good music. A matter of taste :}
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