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Lectures for a New Year: How to Enjoy Classical Music

Benjamin Zander is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, and a hell of a speaker. He's funny, engaging, and adorably English -- exactly the sort of speaker who commands and rewards attention. In this twenty-minute talk, he barrels headlong into a brief explanation of classical music, how it works, and how we -- the great non-classical-music-listening masses -- might actually enjoy it, even if we're weeping in the process. This lecture made me laugh and cry in equal measures -- bravo, sir.

Topics: "one-buttock playing"; "everybody has a fantastic ear"; the characteristics of a leader; "the reason you feel sleepy in classical music is not because of you, it's because of us!"; how Chopin mimics Hamlet; and the specific tip (right around 12:30) on how to listen to classical music.

For: anyone who likes classical music (3% of the general population) or dislikes classical music (97%). Mostly the latter.

Viewing note: the YouTube version is a little fuzzy; a somewhat higher-quality video is available directly from TED; click the Download button and follow the instructions.

Further Reading

Zander co-authored the book The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life. I haven't read it -- anyone in the audience care to comment on it? There's also a bunch of material conducted by Zander out there at your favorite music store, and these interviews might interest you.

Transcript

A full transcript (and subtitles in dozens of languages) is available from the TED page.

Suggest a Lecture

Got a favorite lecture? Is it online in some video format? Leave a comment and we’ll check it out!

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Animals
Australian Charity Releases Album of Cat-Themed Ballads to Promote Feline Welfare
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An Australian animal charity is helping save the nation’s kitties one torch song at a time, releasing a feline-focused musical album that educates pet owners about how to properly care for their cats.

Around 35,000 cats end up in pounds, shelters, and rescue programs every year in the Australian state of New South Wales, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Microchipping and fixing cats, along with keeping closer tabs on them, could help reduce this number. To get this message out, the RSPCA’s New South Wales chapter created Cat Ballads: Music To Improve The Lives Of Cats.

The five-track recording is campy and fur-filled, with titles like "Desex Me Before I Do Something Crazy" and "Meow Meow." But songs like “I Need You” might tug the heartstrings of ailurophiles with lyrics like “I guess that’s goodbye then/but you’ve done this before/the window's wide open/and so’s the back door/you might think I’m independent/but you’d be wrong.” There's also a special version of the song that's specifically designed for cats’ ears, featuring purring, bird tweets, and other feline-friendly noises.

Together, the tunes remind us how vulnerable our kitties really are, and provide a timely reminder for cat owners to be responsible parents to their furry friends.

“The Cat Ballads campaign coincides with kitten season, which is when our shelters receive a significantly higher number of unwanted kittens as the seasons change,” Dr. Jade Norris, a veterinary scientist with the RSPCA, tells Mental Floss. “Desexing cats is a critical strategy to reduce unwanted kittens.”

Listen to a song from Cat Ballads below, and visit the project’s website for the full rundown.

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technology
ABBA Is Going on Tour—As Holograms
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Missed your chance to watch ABBA perform live at the peak of their popularity? You’re in luck: Fans will soon be able to see the group in concert in all their chart-topping, 1970s glory—or rather, they’ll be able to see their holograms. As Mashable reports, a virtual version of the Swedish pop band is getting ready to go on tour.

ABBA split up in 1982, and the band hasn't been on tour since. (Though they did get together for a surprise reunion performance in 2016.) All four members of ABBA are still alive, but apparently not up for reentering the concert circuit when they can earn money on a holographic tour from the comfort of their homes.

The musicians of ABBA have already had the necessary measurements taken to bring their digital selves to life. The final holograms will resemble the band in the late 1970s, with their images projected in front of physical performers. Part of the show will be played live, but the main vocals will be lifted from original ABBA records and recordings of their 1977 Australian tour.

ABBA won’t be the first musical act to perform via hologram. Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson, and Dean Martin have all been revived using the technology, but this may be one of the first times computerized avatars are standing in for big-name performers who are still around. ABBA super-fans will find out if “SOS” still sounds as catchy from the mouths of holograms when the tour launches in 2019.

[h/t Mashable]

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