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TED2006

Sirena Huang: An 11-year-old's magical violin

February 23, 2006

Violinist Sirena Huang gives a technically brilliant and emotionally nuanced performance. In a charming interlude, the 11-year-old praises the timeless design of her instrument.

Sirena Huang - Violinist
Sirena Huang started taking violin lessons at age 4 and made her professional solo debut at 9 with the Taiwan Symphony Orchestra. She has won top prizes in numerous international competitions, delighting audiences worldwide with her virtuosity and charm. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
(Music)
00:24
(Applause)
08:40
Hi everyone. I'm Sirena.
08:58
I'm 11 years old and from Connecticut.
09:00
(Applause)
09:06
Well, I'm not really sure why I'm here.
09:10
(Laughter)
09:15
I mean, what does this have to do with
09:17
technology, entertainment and design?
09:19
Well, I count my iPod, cellphone and computer as technology
09:23
but this has nothing to do with that.
09:27
So I did a little research on it.
09:31
Well, this is what I found.
09:34
Of course, I hope I can memorize it.
09:35
The violin is basically made of a wood box
09:39
and four main strings.
09:41
By playing the string, the string vibrates
09:42
and produces a sound wave.
09:43
Sound passes through a piece of wood called a bridge
09:44
and goes down to the wood box and gets amplified
09:46
but ... let me think.
09:48
(Laughter)
09:52
Okay. On the other hand
09:53
by placing your finger in a different position on the fingerboard
09:55
it changes the string length,
09:58
that changes the frequency of the sound wave.
09:59
Oh, my gosh!
10:02
(Laughter)
10:04
Okay. This is sort of a technology
10:05
but I can call it a 16th-century technology.
10:09
But actually, the most fascinating thing that I found
10:14
was that even the audio system
10:17
or wave transmission nowadays
10:20
are still basically based on the same principle
10:21
of producing and projecting sound.
10:24
Isn't that cool?
10:26
(Laughter)
10:28
(Applause)
10:31
Design -- I love its design.
10:38
I remember when I was little
10:41
my mom asked me,
10:42
would you like to play the violin or the piano?
10:43
I looked at that giant monster
10:46
and said to myself --
10:49
I am not going to lock myself on that bench
10:51
the whole day.
10:54
This is small and lightweight.
10:56
I can play from standing, sitting or walking.
10:59
And you know what?
11:01
The best of all is that if I don't want to practice,
11:02
I can hide it.
11:07
(Laughter)
11:09
The violin is very beautiful.
11:13
Some people relate it as the shape of a lady
11:15
but, whether you like it or not,
11:18
it's been so for more than 400 years,
11:20
unlike modern stuff that easily looks dated.
11:23
But I think it's very personal and unique that,
11:27
although each violin looks pretty similar,
11:29
that no two violins sound the same.
11:32
Even from the same maker
11:35
or based on the same model.
11:36
Entertainment -- I love the entertainment,
11:39
but actually, the instrument itself
11:43
isn't very entertaining.
11:46
I mean, when I first got my violin
11:48
and tried to play around, it was
11:51
actually, really bad because
11:52
it didn't sound like the way I'd heard from other kids --
11:57
so horrible and so scratchy --
11:59
so it wasn't entertaining at all.
12:02
But besides, my brother found this very funny.
12:05
Yuk, yuk, yuk.
12:10
(Laughter)
12:13
A few years later I heard a joke about
12:19
the greatest violinist, Jascha Heifetz.
12:21
After Mr. Heifetz's concert
12:23
a lady came over and complimented,
12:25
"Oh, Mr. Heifetz, your violin sounded so great tonight."
12:27
And Mr. Heifetz was a very cool person,
12:31
so he picked up his violin and said,
12:33
"Funny, I don't hear anything."
12:35
(Laughter)
12:37
And now, I realize that as the musician,
12:40
we human beings, we have a great mind,
12:42
artistic heart and skill
12:46
that can change the 16th-century technology
12:48
and a legendary design
12:51
to a wonderful entertainment.
12:53
Now, I know why I'm here.
12:55
(Music)
12:58
(Applause)
16:36
At first I thought I was just going to be here to perform,
16:43
but unexpectedly, I learned and enjoyed much more.
16:47
But ... although some of them were quite up there for me.
16:52
(Laughter)
16:58
Like the multi-dimension stuff.
17:02
I mean, honestly, I'd be happy enough
17:06
if I can actually get my two dimension correct in school.
17:08
(Laughter)
17:11
But actually, the most impressive thing to me
17:15
is that ... well, actually,
17:18
I would also like to stand this for all children
17:19
is to say, thank you, to all adults
17:23
for actually caring for us a lot
17:25
and to make our future world much better.
17:29
Thank you.
17:32
(Applause)
17:34
(Music)
17:43
(Applause)
22:33
(Music)
23:00
(Applause)
24:44

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Sirena Huang - Violinist
Sirena Huang started taking violin lessons at age 4 and made her professional solo debut at 9 with the Taiwan Symphony Orchestra. She has won top prizes in numerous international competitions, delighting audiences worldwide with her virtuosity and charm.

Why you should listen

Only 11 years old when she performed at TED, Sirena Huang is still technically a child. But as anyone who sees her perform can attest, she has a musician's soul that transcends her years. "Her musical imagination is boundless," said Juilliard dean Stephen Clapp, who described her as "a musical artist with qualities of maturity far beyond her age."

What's most striking in her performance style is the way she combines technical ability with emotional force and nuance. Her fiercely virtuoso performances are profoundly moving, even via podcast. "Amazed," "delighted" and "spellbound" are the words bloggers often use after watching her play. She has won numerous awards for her brilliant performances worldwide, and has played for the likes of French president Nicolas Sarkozy, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and the Dalai Lama. 

The original video is available on TED.com
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