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TEDx Aldeburgh

  • Date: 6 May 2011
  • Artform: Music
  • Area: South East
man speaking on stage in front of digital screen that reads TEDx Aldeburgh Thomas Dolby hosts TEDx Aldeburgh, Jana Chiellino Photography

The very first TEDx Aldeburgh Music took place at Snape Maltings in Suffolk in November 2010. It was an independently organised event, based on the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) movement, aimed at bringing people together to share ideas about innovation in music.

TED is a global movement centred on "ideas worth spreading". What started as a selection of conferences, has grown into a website with more than 700 inspirational talks that are free to view.

Jonathan Reekie, Chief Executive of Aldeburgh Music explained how the idea for the event came about. 'TEDx Aldeburgh began because, coincidentally, the TED Global Music Director, Thomas Dolby, lives in Suffolk. We decided that a TEDx devoted to music and creativity would be a great addition to the TED network.'

The organisation's one-day event took place in Aldeburgh's recently completed Britten Studio. It brought together some of the most original thinkers from the music world and, following the TEDx format, combined their contributions with some of the best TED Talks (available on, relevant to music. 

Throughout the day a conscious effort was made to remove the boundaries between audience and participants. Thomas Dolby said in his introduction: 'What really sets TED apart is that there never has been a rope. It's okay to strike up conversations with total strangers!'

Aldeburgh Music's TEDx was also timed to overlap with a Faster Than Sound residency (with Tod Machover, United Visual Artists and cellist Peter Gregson), and a Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme New Music New Media course for young composers. 

The day was divided into three loosely themed parts. Perspectives; Play and Participation. After an introduction by Thomas Dolby, Perspectives began with David Toop reflecting on how, if we are to imagine the future of music, we have to first consider how we listen. 

Tod Machover (Professor of Music at MIT) talked about his ground-breaking research in music and his hyper-instruments, including a performance with cellist Peter Gregson; and Martyn Ware and United Visual Artists shared their experience of sound and visual experiments.  There were recorded talks by Mark Johnson and David Byrne, who has made a fascinating history of how venues have influenced musical styles from Mozart to Stadium Rock to the MP3 headphone listening experience.

The second session Play included William Orbit (musician and producer of Madonna's Ray of Light). He shared very personal experiences about the pressures of working with Madonna and how not to give away and surrender your sound - which also touched on the question as to which sounds belong to the artist rather than an anonymous 'factory'. However, Orbit saw a 'Golden Age of pop' happening right now, with a fusion of genres bringing the best to a new mix.

Pianist Sarah Nicolls showed off her futuristic thinking about the piano and Nick Ryan talked about Papa Sangre that he was developing, the first audio-only video game (since released to great acclaim). There were recorded talks by Evelyn Glennie who gave another perspective on listening and Itay Talgam gave a sometimes hilarious analysis of conducting.

The third and last session, Participation, had Tim Exile demonstrating a new sound controlled synthesiser, The Mouth, and an inspirational body percussion performance by Matthew Farthing, a 14-year-old member of Aldeburgh Young Musicians.  Along with recorded talks with Derek Sivers and Benjamin Zander (who has an enviable optimism about the power and future of classical music), we ended with an improvised but uplifting talk from Imogen Heap about her ways of communicating with her audience.

Jonathan Reekie concluded, 'TEDx Aldeburgh certainly lived up to the TED ideals of free thinking and ideas sharing, as well as the Aldeburgh spirit of open skies and open minds.' 

The event was made with support from Autonomy, Sound on Sound, Arts Council England and East of England Development Agency. 

Go to the Aldeburgh Music website to look out for details of this year's TEDx event.