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David Byrne, Ethel + Thomas Dolby: "(Nothing But) Flowers" with string quartet

February 12, 2010

David Byrne sings the Talking Heads' 1988 hit, "(Nothing But) Flowers." He's accompanied by Thomas Dolby and string quartet Ethel, who made up the TED2010 house band.

Ethel - String quartet
Ethel is, perhaps, the first 21st-century realization of the classical string quartet. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
♫ Here we stand ♫
♫ Like an Adam and an Eve ♫
♫ Waterfalls ♫
♫ The Garden of Eden ♫
♫ Two fools in love ♫
♫ So beautiful and strong ♫
♫ Birds in the trees ♫
♫ Are smiling upon them ♫
♫ From the age of the dinosaurs ♫
♫ Cars would run on gasoline ♫
♫ Where? Where have they gone? ♫
♫ Now, there's nothing but flowers ♫
♫ This was a factory ♫
♫Now there are mountains and rivers ♫
♫ You got it, you got it ♫
♫ We caught a rattlesnake ♫
♫ Now we've got something for dinner ♫
♫ You got it, you got it ♫
♫ This was a parking lot ♫
♫ Now it's all covered with flowers ♫
♫ You got it, you got it ♫
♫ If this is paradise ♫
♫ I wish I had a lawnmower ♫
♫ You got it, you got it ♫
♫ This was a shopping mall ♫
♫ Now it's turned into corn field ♫
♫ You got it, you got it ♫
♫ Don't leave me stranded here ♫
♫ I can't get used to this lifestyle ♫
Thomas Dolby: David Byrne.

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David Byrne - Musician, artist, writer
David Byrne builds an idiosyncratic world of music, art, writing and film.

Why you should listen

Musician, author, filmmaker, curator, conservationist, digital music theorist, bicycle advocate, urban designer, visual artist, humanist ... David Byrne has many ways of expressing himself -- all of them heartfelt, authentic and thought-provoking.

From his groundbreaking recording career, first with Talking Heads and then as a solo artist and collaborator, to his recent use of digital media to connnect his creations to the world, he has been meshing art and technology to create jaw-dropping, soulful masterpieces that tell a story, and often invoke his audience to create some masterpieces of their own. In a recent art installation, Playing the Building, Byrne transformed an empty building into a musical instrument, and then invited visitors to play it. 

His book Bicycle Diaries is a journal of what he thought and experienced while cycling through the cities of the world. And his 2012 book How Music Works expands on his 2010 TEDTalk to imagine how music is shaped by its time and place. 

In David Byrne's 2010 TEDTalk, the image of CBGB comes from Joseph O. Holmes' CBGB series >>  

Thomas Dolby - Electronic music pioneer
Thomas Dolby has spent his career at the intersection of music and technology. He was an early star on MTV, then moved to Silicon Valley, then went back on the road with his album, "A Map of the Floating City."

Why you should listen

Perhaps best known for blinding us with science, Thomas Dolby has always blurred the lines between composition and invention. As a London teenager, Tom Robertson was fascinated with the convergence of music and technology. His experiments with an assortment of keyboards, synthesizers and cassette players led his friends to dub him “Dolby.” That same fascination later drove him to become an electronic musician and multimedia artist whose groundbreaking work fused music with computer technology and video. Two decades, several film scores, five Grammy nominations and countless live-layered sound loops later, it's clear Dolby's innovations have changed the sound of popular music.

In the 1990s, Dolby re-created himself as a digital-musical entrepreneur, founding Beatnik, which developed the polyphonic ringtone software used in more than half a billion cell phones. From 2001 to 2012, Dolby served as TED's Music Director, programming great music for the TED stage, assembling a wide variety of house bands and collaborations to play between speakers. At TED2010, backed by the string quarter Ethel, he premiered the song "Love Is a Loaded Pistol," from his sweeping, A Map of the Floating City. The album marked his return to recording and touring after a 15-year hiatus, and used seriously retro technology -- '40s-era oscilloscopes and Royal Navy field-test equipment -- to control modern synthesizers, in shows at once nostalgic and cutting edge.

In 2014, Dolby took on a new name: professor. He was named the Homewood Professor of the Arts at Johns Hopkins University, teaching the course "Sound on Film."

Ethel - String quartet
Ethel is, perhaps, the first 21st-century realization of the classical string quartet.

Why you should listen

An all-star foursome, Ethel includes performers Cornelius Dufallo (violin), Ralph Farris (viola), Dorothy Lawson (cello), and Mary Rowell (violin), a mixed bag of players from classical, rock and downtown new-music circles. The powerhouse ensemble takes an unconventional approach to performance.

Says the Wall Street Journal, "Ethel ... created a world in which classical music had never grown distant, a world in which it was as fresh and direct as crowds dancing in the street."

(photo by Steve J. Sherman)

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