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  • I am a conductor,

  • and I'm here today

  • to talk to you about trust.

  • My job depends upon it.

  • There has to be, between me and the orchestra,

  • an unshakable bond of trust,

  • born out of mutual respect,

  • through which we can spin a musical narrative

  • that we all believe in.

  • Now in the old days, conducting, music making,

  • was less about trust and more, frankly, about coercion.

  • Up to and around about the Second World War,

  • conductors were invariably dictators --

  • these tyrannical figures

  • who would rehearse, not just the orchestra as a whole, but individuals within it,

  • within an inch of their lives.

  • But I'm happy to say now that the world has moved on,

  • music has moved on with it.

  • We now have a more democratic view and way of making music --

  • a two-way street.

  • I, as the conductor, have to come to the rehearsal with a cast-iron sense

  • of the outer architecture of that music,

  • within which there is then immense personal freedom

  • for the members of the orchestra to shine.

  • For myself, of course,

  • I have to completely trust my body language.

  • That's all I have at the point of sale.

  • It's silent gesture.

  • I can hardly bark out instructions while we're playing.

  • (Music)

  • Ladies and gentlemen, the Scottish Ensemble.

  • (Applause)

  • So in order for all this to work,

  • obviously I have got to be in a position of trust.

  • I have to trust the orchestra,

  • and, even more crucially, I have to trust myself.

  • Think about it: when you're in a position of not trusting,

  • what do you do?

  • You overcompensate.

  • And in my game, that means you overgesticulate.

  • You end up like some kind of rabid windmill.

  • And the bigger your gesture gets,

  • the more ill-defined, blurry

  • and, frankly, useless it is to the orchestra.

  • You become a figure of fun. There's no trust anymore, only ridicule.

  • And I remember at the beginning of my career,

  • again and again, on these dismal outings with orchestras,

  • I would be going completely insane on the podium,

  • trying to engender a small scale crescendo really,

  • just a little upsurge in volume.

  • Bugger me, they wouldn't give it to me.

  • I spent a lot of time in those early years

  • weeping silently in dressing rooms.

  • And how futile seemed the words of advice to me

  • from great British veteran conductor Sir Colin Davis

  • who said, "Conducting, Charles,

  • is like holding a small bird in your hand.

  • If you hold it too tightly, you crush it.

  • If you hold it too loosely, it flies away."

  • I have to say, in those days, I couldn't really even find the bird.

  • Now a fundamental

  • and really viscerally important experience for me, in terms of music,

  • has been my adventures in South Africa,

  • the most dizzyingly musical country on the planet in my view,

  • but a country which, through its musical culture,

  • has taught me one fundamental lesson:

  • that through music making

  • can come deep levels

  • of fundamental life-giving trust.

  • Back in 2000, I had the opportunity to go to South Africa

  • to form a new opera company.

  • So I went out there, and I auditioned,

  • mainly in rural township locations, right around the country.

  • I heard about 2,000 singers

  • and pulled together a company

  • of 40 of the most jaw-droppingly amazing young performers,

  • the majority of whom were black,

  • but there were a handful of white performers.

  • Now it emerged early on in the first rehearsal period

  • that one of those white performers

  • had, in his previous incarnation,

  • been a member of the South African police force.

  • And in the last years of the old regime,

  • he would routinely be detailed to go into the township

  • to aggress the community.

  • Now you can imagine what this knowledge did to the temperature in the room,

  • the general atmosphere.

  • Let's be under no illusions.

  • In South Africa, the relationship most devoid of trust

  • is that between a white policeman

  • and the black community.

  • So how do we recover from that, ladies and gentlemen?

  • Simply through singing.

  • We sang, we sang,

  • we sang,

  • and amazingly new trust grew,

  • and indeed friendship blossomed.

  • And that showed me such a fundamental truth,

  • that music making and other forms of creativity

  • can so often go to places

  • where mere words cannot.

  • So we got some shows off the ground. We started touring them internationally.

  • One of them was "Carmen."

  • We then thought we'd make a movie of "Carmen,"

  • which we recorded and shot outside on location

  • in the township outside Cape Town called Khayelitsha.

  • The piece was sung entirely in Xhosa,

  • which is a beautifully musical language, if you don't know it.

  • It's called "U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha" --

  • literally "Carmen of Khayelitsha."

  • I want to play you a tiny clip of it now

  • for no other reason than to give you proof positive

  • that there is nothing tiny about South African music making.

  • (Music)

  • (Applause)

  • Something which I find utterly enchanting

  • about South African music making

  • is that it's so free.

  • South Africans just make music really freely.

  • And I think, in no small way,

  • that's due to one fundamental fact:

  • they're not bound to a system of notation.

  • They don't read music.

  • They trust their ears.

  • You can teach a bunch of South Africans a tune in about five seconds flat.

  • And then, as if by magic,

  • they will spontaneously improvise a load of harmony around that tune

  • because they can.

  • Now those of us that live in the West, if I can use that term,

  • I think have a much more hidebound attitude or sense of music --

  • that somehow it's all about skill and systems.

  • Therefore it's the exclusive preserve

  • of an elite, talented body.

  • And yet, ladies and gentlemen, every single one of us on this planet

  • probably engages with music on a daily basis.

  • And if I can broaden this out for a second,

  • I'm willing to bet that every single one of you sitting in this room

  • would be happy to speak with acuity, with total confidence,

  • about movies, probably about literature.

  • But how many of you would be able to make a confident assertion

  • about a piece of classical music?

  • Why is this?

  • And what I'm going to say to you now

  • is I'm just urging you to get over

  • this supreme lack of self-confidence,

  • to take the plunge, to believe that you can trust your ears,

  • you can hear some of the fundamental muscle tissue,

  • fiber, DNA,

  • what makes a great piece of music great.

  • I've got a little experiment I want to try with you.

  • Did you know

  • that TED is a tune?

  • A very simple tune based on three notes -- T, E, D.

  • Now hang on a minute.

  • I know you're going to say to me, "T doesn't exist in music."

  • Well ladies and gentlemen, there's a time-honored system,

  • which composers have been using for hundreds of years,

  • which proves actually that it does.

  • If I sing you a musical scale: A, B, C, D, E, F, G --

  • and I just carry on with the next set of letters in the alphabet, same scale:

  • H, I, J, K, L, M, N,

  • O, P, Q, R, S, T -- there you go.

  • T, see it's the same as F in music.

  • So T is F.

  • So T, E, D is the same as F, E, D.

  • Now that piece of music that we played at the start of this session

  • had enshrined in its heart

  • the theme, which is TED.

  • Have a listen.

  • (Music)

  • Do you hear it?

  • Or do I smell some doubt in the room?

  • Okay, we'll play it for you again now,

  • and we're going to highlight, we're going to poke out the T, E, D.

  • If you'll pardon the expression.

  • (Music)

  • Oh my goodness me, there it was loud and clear, surely.

  • I think we should make this even more explicit.

  • Ladies and gentlemen, it's nearly time for tea.

  • Would you reckon you need to sing for your tea, I think?

  • I think we need to sing for our tea.

  • We're going to sing those three wonderful notes: T, E, D.

  • Will you have a go for me?

  • Audience: T, E, D.

  • Charles Hazlewood: Yeah, you sound a bit more like cows really than human beings.

  • Shall we try that one again?

  • And look, if you're adventurous, you go up the octave.

  • T, E, D.

  • Audience: T, E, D.

  • CH: Once more with vim. (Audience: T, E, D.)

  • There I am like a bloody windmill again, you see.

  • Now we're going to put that in the context of the music.

  • The music will start, and then at a signal from me, you will sing that.

  • (Music)

  • One more time,

  • with feeling, ladies and gentlemen.

  • You won't make the key otherwise.

  • Well done, ladies and gentlemen.

  • It wasn't a bad debut for the TED choir,

  • not a bad debut at all.

  • Now there's a project that I'm initiating at the moment

  • that I'm very excited about and wanted to share with you,

  • because it is all about changing perceptions,

  • and, indeed, building a new level of trust.

  • The youngest of my children was born with cerebral palsy,

  • which as you can imagine,

  • if you don't have an experience of it yourself,

  • is quite a big thing to take on board.

  • But the gift that my gorgeous daughter has given me,

  • aside from her very existence,

  • is that it's opened my eyes to a whole stretch of the community

  • that was hitherto hidden,

  • the community of disabled people.

  • And I found myself looking at the Paralympics and thinking how incredible

  • how technology's been harnessed to prove beyond doubt

  • that disability is no barrier

  • to the highest levels of sporting achievement.

  • Of course there's a grimmer side to that truth,

  • which is that it's actually taken decades for the world at large

  • to come to a position of trust,

  • to really believe that disability and sports can go together

  • in a convincing and interesting fashion.

  • So I find myself asking:

  • where is music in all of this?

  • You can't tell me that there aren't millions of disabled people,

  • in the U.K. alone,

  • with massive musical potential.

  • So I decided to create a platform for that potential.

  • It's going to be Britain's first ever

  • national disabled orchestra.

  • It's called Paraorchestra.

  • I'm going to show you a clip now

  • of the very first improvisation session that we had.

  • It was a really extraordinary moment.

  • Just me and four astonishingly gifted disabled musicians.

  • Normally when you improvise --

  • and I do it all the time around the world --

  • there's this initial period of horror,

  • like everyone's too frightened to throw the hat into the ring,

  • an awful pregnant silence.

  • Then suddenly, as if by magic, bang! We're all in there

  • and it's complete bedlam. You can't hear anything.

  • No one's listening. No one's trusting.

  • No one's responding to each other.

  • Now in this room with these four disabled musicians,

  • within five minutes

  • a rapt listening, a rapt response

  • and some really insanely beautiful music.

  • (Video) (Music)

  • Nicholas:: My name's Nicholas McCarthy.

  • I'm 22, and I'm a left-handed pianist.

  • And I was born without my left hand -- right hand.

  • Can I do that one again?

  • (Music)

  • Lyn: When I'm making music,

  • I feel like a pilot in the cockpit flying an airplane.

  • I become alive.

  • (Music)

  • Clarence: I would rather be able to play an instrument again