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 >>
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."
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)