Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Probably a lot of you know the story of the two salesmen

  • who went down to Africa in the 1900s.

  • They were sent down to find if there was any opportunity

  • for selling shoes,

  • and they wrote telegrams back to Manchester.

  • And one of them wrote,

  • "Situation hopeless. Stop. They don't wear shoes."

  • And the other one wrote,

  • "Glorious opportunity. They don't have any shoes yet."

  • (Laughter)

  • Now, there's a similar situation in the classical music world,

  • because there are some people who think that classical music is dying.

  • And there are some of us who think you ain't seen nothing yet.

  • And rather than go into statistics and trends,

  • and tell you about all the orchestras that are closing,

  • and the record companies that are folding,

  • I thought we should do an experiment tonight.

  • Actually, it's not really an experiment, because I know the outcome.

  • (Laughter)

  • But it's like an experiment.

  • Now, before we start --

  • (Laughter)

  • Before we start, I need to do two things.

  • One is I want to remind you of what a seven-year-old child

  • sounds like when he plays the piano.

  • Maybe you have this child at home.

  • He sounds something like this.

  • (Music)

  • (Music ends)

  • I see some of you recognize this child.

  • Now, if he practices for a year and takes lessons, he's now eight

  • and he sounds like this.

  • (Music)

  • (Music ends)

  • He practices for another year and takes lessons -- he's nine.

  • (Music)

  • (Music ends)

  • Then he practices for another year and takes lessons -- now he's 10.

  • (Music)

  • (Music ends)

  • At that point, they usually give up.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • Now, if you'd waited for one more year, you would have heard this.

  • (Music)

  • (Music ends)

  • Now, what happened was not maybe what you thought,

  • which is, he suddenly became passionate, engaged,

  • involved, got a new teacher, he hit puberty, or whatever it is.

  • What actually happened was the impulses were reduced.

  • You see, the first time, he was playing with an impulse on every note.

  • (Music)

  • And the second, with an impulse every other note.

  • (Music)

  • You can see it by looking at my head.

  • (Laughter)

  • The nine-year-old put an impulse on every four notes.

  • (Music)

  • The 10-year-old, on every eight notes.

  • (Music)

  • And the 11-year-old, one impulse on the whole phrase.

  • (Music)

  • I don't know how we got into this position.

  • (Laughter)

  • I didn't say, "I'm going to move my shoulder over, move my body."

  • No, the music pushed me over,

  • which is why I call it one-buttock playing.

  • (Music)

  • It can be the other buttock.

  • (Music)

  • You know, a gentleman was once watching a presentation I was doing,

  • when I was working with a young pianist.

  • He was the president of a corporation in Ohio.

  • I was working with this young pianist, and said,

  • "The trouble with you is you're a two-buttock player.

  • You should be a one-buttock player."

  • I moved his body while he was playing.

  • And suddenly, the music took off. It took flight.

  • The audience gasped when they heard the difference.

  • Then I got a letter from this gentleman.

  • He said, "I was so moved.

  • I went back and I transformed my entire company

  • into a one-buttock company."

  • (Laughter)

  • Now, the other thing I wanted to do is to tell you about you.

  • There are 1,600 people, I believe.

  • My estimation is that probably 45 of you

  • are absolutely passionate about classical music.

  • You adore classical music. Your FM is always on that classical dial.

  • You have CDs in your car, and you go to the symphony,

  • your children are playing instruments.

  • You can't imagine your life without classical music.

  • That's the first group, quite small.

  • Then there's another bigger group.

  • The people who don't mind classical music.

  • (Laughter)

  • You know, you've come home from a long day,

  • and you take a glass of wine, and you put your feet up.

  • A little Vivaldi in the background doesn't do any harm.

  • That's the second group.

  • Now comes the third group:

  • people who never listen to classical music.

  • It's just simply not part of your life.

  • You might hear it like second-hand smoke at the airport ...

  • (Laughter)

  • -- and maybe a little bit of a march from "Aida"

  • when you come into the hall.

  • But otherwise, you never hear it.

  • That's probably the largest group.

  • And then there's a very small group.

  • These are the people who think they're tone-deaf.

  • Amazing number of people think they're tone-deaf.

  • Actually, I hear a lot, "My husband is tone-deaf."

  • (Laughter)

  • Actually, you cannot be tone-deaf.

  • Nobody is tone-deaf.

  • If you were tone-deaf, you couldn't change the gears

  • on your car, in a stick shift car.

  • You couldn't tell the difference between

  • somebody from Texas and somebody from Rome.

  • And the telephone. The telephone.

  • If your mother calls

  • on the miserable telephone, she calls and says, "Hello,"

  • you not only know who it is, you know what mood she's in.

  • You have a fantastic ear. Everybody has a fantastic ear.

  • So nobody is tone-deaf.

  • But I tell you what.

  • It doesn't work for me to go on with this thing,

  • with such a wide gulf between those who understand,

  • love and are passionate about classical music,

  • and those who have no relationship to it at all.

  • The tone-deaf people, they're no longer here.

  • But even between those three categories,

  • it's too wide a gulf.

  • So I'm not going to go on until every single person in this room,

  • downstairs and in Aspen, and everybody else looking,

  • will come to love and understand classical music.

  • So that's what we're going to do.

  • Now, you notice that there is not the slightest doubt in my mind

  • that this is going to work, if you look at my face, right?

  • It's one of the characteristics of a leader that he not doubt

  • for one moment the capacity of the people he's leading

  • to realize whatever he's dreaming.

  • Imagine if Martin Luther King had said, "I have a dream.

  • Of course, I'm not sure they'll be up to it."

  • (Laughter)

  • All right. So I'm going to take a piece of Chopin.

  • This is a beautiful prelude by Chopin.

  • Some of you will know it.

  • (Music)

  • Do you know what I think probably happened here?

  • When I started, you thought, "How beautiful that sounds."

  • (Music)

  • "I don't think we should go to the same place

  • for our summer holidays next year."

  • (Laughter)

  • It's funny, isn't it?

  • It's funny how those thoughts kind of waft into your head.

  • And of course --

  • (Applause)

  • Of course, if the piece is long and you've had a long day,

  • you might actually drift off.

  • Then your companion will dig you in the ribs

  • and say, "Wake up! It's culture!" And then you feel even worse.

  • (Laughter)

  • But has it ever occurred to you that the reason you feel sleepy

  • in classical music is not because of you, but because of us?

  • Did anybody think while I was playing,

  • "Why is he using so many impulses?"

  • If I'd done this with my head you certainly would have thought it.

  • (Music)

  • (Music ends)

  • And for the rest of your life, every time you hear classical music,

  • you'll always be able to know if you hear those impulses.

  • So let's see what's really going on here.

  • We have a B. This is a B.

  • The next note is a C.

  • And the job of the C is to make the B sad.

  • And it does, doesn't it?

  • (Laughter)

  • Composers know that.

  • If they want sad music, they just play those two notes.

  • (Music)

  • But basically, it's just a B, with four sads.

  • (Laughter)

  • Now, it goes down to A.

  • Now to G.

  • And then to F.

  • So we have B, A, G, F.

  • And if we have B, A, G, F,

  • what do we expect next?

  • (Music)

  • That might have been a fluke.

  • Let's try it again.

  • (Music)

  • Oh, the TED choir.

  • (Laughter)

  • And you notice nobody is tone-deaf, right?

  • Nobody is.

  • You know, every village in Bangladesh

  • and every hamlet in China -- everybody knows:

  • da, da, da, da -- da.

  • Everybody knows, who's expecting that E.

  • Chopin didn't want to reach the E there,

  • because what will have happened?

  • It will be over, like Hamlet. Do you remember?

  • Act One, scene three,

  • he finds out his uncle killed his father.

  • He keeps on going up to his uncle and almost killing him.

  • And then he backs away, he goes up to him again, almost kills him.

  • The critics sitting in the back row there,

  • they have to have an opinion, so they say, "Hamlet is a procrastinator."

  • Or they say, "Hamlet has an Oedipus complex."

  • No, otherwise the play would be over, stupid.

  • (Laughter)

  • That's why Shakespeare puts all that stuff in Hamlet --

  • Ophelia going mad, the play within the play,

  • and Yorick's skull, and the gravediggers.

  • That's in order to delay --

  • until Act Five, he can kill him.

  • It's the same with the Chopin.

  • He's just about to reach the E,

  • and he says, "Oops, better go back up and do it again."

  • So he does it again.

  • Now, he gets excited.

  • (Music)

  • That's excitement, don't worry about it.

  • Now, he gets to F-sharp, and finally he goes down to E,

  • but it's the wrong chord --

  • because the chord he's looking for is this one,

  • and instead he does ...

  • Now, we call that a deceptive cadence,

  • because it deceives us.

  • I tell my students, "If you have a deceptive cadence,

  • raise your eyebrows, and everybody will know."

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • Right.

  • He gets to E, but it's the wrong chord.

  • Now, he tries E again.

  • That chord doesn't work.

  • Now, he tries the E again. That chord doesn't work.

  • Now, he tries E again, and that doesn't work.

  • And then finally ...

  • There was a gentleman in the front row who went, "Mmm."

  • (Laughter)

  • It's the same gesture he makes when he comes home

  • after a long day, turns off the key in his car and says,

  • "Aah, I'm home."

  • Because we all know where home is.

  • So this is a piece which goes from away to home.

  • I'm going to play it all the way through and you're going to follow.

  • B, C, B, C, B, C, B --

  • down to A, down to G, down to F.

  • Almost goes to E, but otherwise the play would be over.

  • He goes back up to B, he gets very excited.

  • Goes to F-sharp. Goes to E.

  • It's the wrong chord. It's the wrong chord.

  • And finally goes to E, and it's home.

  • And what you're going to see is one-buttock playing.