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Amanda Palmer, Jherek Bischoff, Usman Riaz: "Space Oddity"

February 19, 2016

Singer Amanda Palmer pays tribute to the inimitable David Bowie with a cover of "Space Oddity." She's joined onstage by Jherek Bischoff, TED Fellow Usman Riaz and, no, your eyes are not deceiving you, none other than former Vice President Al Gore.

Usman Riaz - Percussive guitarist
Young guitarist Usman Riaz pulls a rich, swirling sound out of the acoustic guitar. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
Amanda Palmer (singing):
Ground Control to Major Tom,
Ground Control to Major Tom,
Take your protein pills
and put your helmet on.
Al Gore: Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six ...
AP: Ground Control to Major Tom,
AG: Five, Four, Three, Two, One ...
AP: Commencing countdown, engines on.
Check ignition
and may God's love be with you.
AG: Liftoff.
AP: This is Ground Control to Major Tom,
You've really made the grade
And the papers want to know
whose shirts you wear.
Now it's time to leave the capsule
if you dare.
"This is Major Tom to Ground Control,
I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today.
For here am I floating round my tin can.
Far above the world,
Planet Earth is blue
and there's nothing I can do."
"Though I'm past 100,000 miles,
I'm feeling very still,
and I think my spaceship knows
which way to go.
Tell my wife I love her very much
she knows."
Ground Control to Major Tom,
your circuit's dead,
there's something wrong.
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you ...
"Here am I floating round my tin can,
far above the Moon.
Planet Earth is blue
and there's nothing I can do.
["I'm not a prophet or a stone-age man,
just a mortal with the potential
of a superman ...
... I'm living on."
David Bowie, 1947-2016]

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Amanda Palmer - Musician, blogger
Alt-rock icon Amanda Fucking Palmer believes we shouldn't fight the fact that digital content is freely shareable -- and suggests that artists can and should be directly supported by fans.

Why you should listen

Amanda Palmer commands attention. The singer-songwriter-blogger-provocateur, known for pushing boundaries in both her art and her lifestyle, made international headlines this year when she raised nearly $1.2 million via Kickstarter (she’d asked for $100k) from nearly 25,000 fans who pre-ordered her new album, Theatre Is Evil.
But the former street performer, then Dresden Dolls frontwoman, now solo artist hit a bump the week her world tour kicked off. She revealed plans to crowdsource additional local backup musicians in each tour stop, offering to pay them in hugs, merchandise and beer per her custom. Bitter and angry criticism ensued (she eventually promised to pay her local collaborators in cash). And it's interesting to consider why. As Laurie Coots suggests: "The idea was heckled because we didn't understand the value exchange -- the whole idea of asking the crowd for what you need when you need it and not asking for more or less."

Summing up her business model, in which she views her recorded music as the digital equivalent of street performing, she says: “I firmly believe in music being as free as possible. Unlocked. Shared and spread. In order for artists to survive and create, their audiences need to step up and directly support them.”

Amanda's non-fiction book, The Art of Asking, digs deeply into the topics she addressed in her TED Talk. 

Jherek Bischoff - Arranger, conductor
Jherek Bischoff is a Los Angeles-based composer, arranger, producer and multi-instrumental performer.

Why you should listen

Jherek Bischoff has collaborated with the likes of Kronos Quartet, Bang on a Can, David Byrne and Neil Gaiman, and he has performed in venues and festivals around the globe including Royal Albert Hall for BBC Proms, Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, Adelaide Festival and Tasmania's MONA FOMA. His work as a composer has garnered commissions from Kronos Quartet, Lincoln Center, and St Ann's Warehouse and has been performed by Seattle Symphony, Adelaide Art Orchestra, Wordless Music, Stargaze and yMusic.

His critically-acclaimed releases include 2016's Cistern, 2012's Composed, and a co-release in 2016 with Amanda Palmer, Strung Out In Heaven: A Bowie String Quartet Tribute. He has been interviewed by Terry Gross on "Fresh Air" and by Jonathan Ross for BBC Radio 2's "Arts Show". In 2014, Bischoff made his musical scoring debut with Johnny Breitwieser at Vienna's Schauspielhaus; in 2015, Bischoff ventured into television, contributing work to Starz' "Blunt Talk" and Netflix's "Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp."

Bischoff was the artist in residence for the month of August for Times Square's Midnight Moment, where his video for "Cistern" was broadcast every night on Times Square's electronic billboards, culminating in two live performances in the middle of Times Square. He is currently working on his next musical score for Theater Basel's production of "Das Fliegende Klassenzimmer," which premieres in December, and a collaborative album with Kronos Quartet.

Usman Riaz - Percussive guitarist
Young guitarist Usman Riaz pulls a rich, swirling sound out of the acoustic guitar.

Why you should listen

TEDGlobal Fellow Usman Riaz is a young Pakistani musician making a worldwide mark with his astonishing and fun-to-listen-to technique. Influenced by percussive guitarists--who move beyond strumming to striking, treating their fretboard like the soundboard of a piano--Riaz makes a sound that feels larger than the instrument itself, with a compelling pattern of repetition and variation that harkens to mystical music traditions.

In 2011, a viral video for his song "Fire Fly" helped bring his sound from the small-but-thriving Pakistani music community to a global audience. He's now collaborating with other musicians in Pakistan and working on a new album of original music.

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Data provided by TED.

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