TED conference online

I haven’t talked much about the TED Conference, an annual event in Monterey California. I have been its Music Director for the last 5 years, and it’s been a fantastic experience. Up until now it was pretty inaccessible to mere mortals, given that the tickets are expensive and usually sold out a year in advance. I always found it a hard thing to explain to the uninitiated, but this year TED has begun podcasting selected sessions from the conference, so I recommend you check it out. You can now download clips of talks given by some of the most brilliant minds on the planet to an audience of their peers, with no constraints from government or corporate agendas. You can watch them on your computer or iPod. I even have a friend in LA who has never attended, but who has started throwing spontaneous TED parties at her place, where a bunch of friends or workmates come over and watch a few TED presentations on her plasma screen.

You can get the TEDtalk podcasts here.

The music I put together for the show varies from year to year. I try to be relevant to the topics we’re covering. I book talent to play live music in between the talks; sometimes it’s world-class acts, other times it’s complete unknowns I’ve discovered in my travels. We have a partnership with Joe’s Pub (the New York venue I played last Spring) that allows us to try acts out there and pick the ones we think would work well at TED.

In addition, I play original music myself to set the tone for each of the 12-some sessions over the four days of the TED Conference. Some years I’ve played a solo instumental piece to introduce each two-hour session; one year I had an excellent 4-piece house band; in 2005 I debuted my ‘sonifications’; and this year I performed with a pair of graffitti artists who painted the titles to each session while I built up looped tracks from scratch.

One of the presenters this year was Peter Gabriel, who was there to talk about a cause that’s dear to his heart. I’d met Peter before and found him very affable, so I took the liberty of sampling one of his most famous tunes and mashing it up with a new piece of my own. The session was entitled ‘The World Flattens’ so I triggered some sound bytes from my own Flat Earth Lecture. I think Peter was sitting in the front row when I played it. As TED is for a good cause I’m sure Peter won’t mind if I put a recording of my performance up online!

[Edit, Aug 22nd] 

However, after sleeping on it, I decided I don’t feel comfortable putting the MP3 up there, given how miffed I was when K-Fed essentially did the same thing to me. I don’t want to be a hypocrite so I’ve taken the track down. Those few of you that listened it yesterday or this morning–I hope you relished the experience!

37 Responses to “TED conference online”

  1. wadcorp says:

    So now Peter will be suing you over illegal sampling. :)

    Likely not.

    Sounds like a great conference, and one I’ve never heard of.

    You did live music with a 4-piece band one year? Gee, is that available or planned for limited release?

    There really should be a nice CD made available for Flat Earth members only. One of the perks of contributing here.

    Or maybe things like that aren’t available because we’re contributing? :)

    Dr. W


  2. MiniCoopGuy says:

    Thank you for the links and new mp3. :) Sledgeflattener is very funky. Great baseline.

  3. BeechwoodAve says:

    Interesting mix… The “Flat Earth” lecture samples really bring me back to seeing you in Chicago in 1984 with the video intro to the concert (though the computer was a bit on the fritz that night). I hope Mr. Gabriel was ‘flat’-tered!

  4. stevied says:

    Thomas, wad that your brother?

    I seem to remember a longer flat earth theory by your brother played on the cool monacle screens on the ’84 tour at the begining of your show. Very cool!

  5. stevied says:

    was (not wad)

    wasn’t that a band?

  6. Rochelle says:

    Oh, this is fun to listen to! You and Peter are two of my all-time favorite artists, and now I get to hear you mixed together.

    Yesterday I saw on iTunes a new jazz group called, “The Flat Earth Society.” Does any one know if TMDR holds the rights to that name?

  7. Octolad says:

    What a great groove! As requested, I have circulated it no further than my own four walls and a combined total of twelve ears. My 20-something friends moved their behinds to it — a pretty reliable barometer against which to measure the funk factor. Makes me crave a CD of new stuff all the more! Thanks for making it available.

  8. SoldInhabitant says:

    Absolutely brilliant! What a treat for a Monday night — a thousand thanks!

  9. d.owen says:

    funky mix thomas,cant wait for new material,long overdue!

  10. ndench says:

    Brilliant, Thomas. So nice to hear something new from you. You are a generous man — if only more artists were willing to share music in this way.

  11. davebobsqrpnts says:

    Wow. TMDR & PG, fantastic. I found a link to one of the podcasts that shows a touch screen computer (nothing new) with an incredible interface. The demo showed how the interface made things as ordinary as Google Earth or a photo library so easy to use. Hope to see some of the technology from TED work its way into consumer products.

    Hey Thomas, how about an anecdote about the song from The Fifth Element?

    If you like Peter Gabriel, check out this on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKknfE4wGmM. A friend of mine gave me a copy of the song about 5 years ago and I’ve never been able to find the video, until now.

  12. davebobsqrpnts says:

    Sorry, the YouTube link has an extra period on the that messes it up.

  13. garonky says:

    Love that bass sound. Big fat fricken thing.

    This mix whoops ass.

  14. mongoloid says:

    Wowsers! You and Peter are a couple of my absolute favorites, so this mix is a real treat! Thanks for putting it up! Mmmmm, synthetic bass….. I love the way that sounds.

  15. vanderwal says:

    The MP3 was fantastic, many thanks.

  16. Thank you for that Thomas, very exciting!

    Take care

  17. Madame Verushka says:

    I finally checked out the TED web site and it’s quite fascinating. Just the sort of thing that can really motivate people not just to think creatively, but also to think big, really big. I’m fortunate to work in an environment of artists that are always feeding off each other’s ideas. I imagine TED must be similar, but on a much grander scale. My boss (a designer and educator) has always wanted to go, but has not been able to afford it. So it’s nice that they have started posting podcasts.

  18. White City says:

    Consider it relished. New material of any kind is a rare and wonderful thing…


  19. stevied says:

    relished it BIG time!!
    Thank you!! and keep up the great work

  20. TMDR says:

    Ha ha I get it….. Big Time!

  21. The Golden Age says:

    Aaahhhh……there it is… that unmistakable sound I love.

    Thank you Thomas

  22. gregorbill says:

    Should have gone with “Shock the Monkey” instead. I think that it’s safe to say that Peter wouldn’t mind using that song since we’re all encouraged to download all of the raw tracks and remix them here: http://www.realworldremixed.com/

  23. Omar Cayasso says:

    Darn… serve me right for not checking in daily!!! Thing is… I just recently bought PG’s last video. TD and PG would ave been just icing on the cake. Hope we get a hold of that mash somehow ;-)

  24. Omar Cayasso says:

    One more thang… anyway you can have a notice-link (subscribing list) that informs when you put up a new Blog entry? I would sure die if I missed any real-time Kate Bush/Thomas Dolby rendezvous or something like a new download tune for a Star Trek feature movie. :)

  25. chrism says:

    Hey Thomas -

    ‘Don’t Give Up’ – why not email Peter and see if it’s ok?

    You may find he’s more of a ‘Mercy Street’ guy than a ‘Sledgehammer’ !

    With apologies.


  26. neeznoodle says:

    It is relished! Thank you for that.

    I learned this morning that you have a new generation of fans. I set my four-year-old up for her morning coloring. She requested some music, so I asked what she wanted to hear. She thought a moment, then answered, “Thomas Dolby.” Smart kid…

  27. merujo says:

    I will keep hoping that one year, my employers might send me out to TED. Hey, you never know – maybe one of our execs who attend TED will have to take an emergency trip to Outer Mongolia, and I’ll get to stand in for him. :-)

    Returning to YouTube for a sec… a few months back, I found a nice video out there of Caroline Lavelle performing “Farther Than The Sun” with you and Mark Walker at TED 2005. Lovely piece of music, and it encouraged me to go find some of Ms. Lavelle’s music, which I’m enjoying tremendously. Gorgeous, gorgeous stuff.

    YouTube: can be used for evil (sock suspenders) *and* good (TED music)…

  28. TMDR says:

    I feel bad for people who arrived too late for the Sledgeflattener download. Didn’t mean to be a tease, I just did it too rashly and my conscience pricked me after the K-Fed incident. I’ll see if I can get an email off to Peter and get his blessing.

    Many of the TED songs would be just fine to put up as MP3′s. There’s my solo pieces, and the accompaniment I did for Eddi Reader, Caroline Lavelle, Natalie MacMaster and others. TED presenters/performers are unpaid, but they get an enormous amount of exposure to a high-end audience, especially now we’re doing the online TEDtalks (thousands of downloads per day as opposed to 800 at the annual event!) If I have time I will put some more downloads together, and help bridge the gap between now and the next tour….

  29. funntheson says:

    Thomas, you constantly amaze me with your down to earth nature and your unselfish behavior. I look forward to your live DVD, the concert in Cerritos (2nd row) and your future endeavors.

  30. mizmusic says:

    Thanks for the link to the TEDTalks, Thomas! I was just listening last night [and yes, again today] to the podcast featuring David Pogue and his HILARIOUS song parodies about Tech Support (oy), Bill Gates and Steve Jobs ["Don't...cry for me Cupertino!"]
    I found myself giggling helplessly. Gawd how I love a good laugh…laughter is good for a person, and it’s fat-free,
    too!! ;)

    I gotta go download a few more of those TEDTalks–they’re amazing!!! Mind-expanding! Very, very satisfying indeed. :)

    Yours with warm-n-fuzzy best wishes and all that jazz,
    A Mere Mortal named Kara. :)

  31. [...] Thanks to my feed of the TEDBlog, I found out that Thomas Dolby has a podcast and a blog. According to said blog, he’s been music director for the TED conferences for the past five years. What an amazing job that must be. [...]

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