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One-Man Orchestra of the Imagination February 1, 2010

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Andrew Bird includes science and emotion in his amazing one-man performances.

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Well, there's lots to talk about, but I think I'm just going to play to start off.

(Music) When I wake up in the morning / I pour the coffee / I read the paper / And then I slowly and so softly / do the dishes / So feed the fishes / You sing me happy birthday / Like it's gonna be your last day / here on Earth (Applause)

All right. So, I wanted to do something special today. I want to debut a new song that I've been working on in the last five or six months. And there's few things more thrilling than playing a song for the first time in front of an audience, especially when it's half-finished. (Laughter) I'm kind of hoping some conversations here might help me finish it. Because it gets into all sorts of crazy realms. And so this is basically a song about loops, but not the kind of loops I make up here. They're feedback loops. And in the audio world that's when the microphone gets too close to its sound source, and then it gets in this self-destructive loop that creates a very unpleasant sound. And I'm going to demonstrate for you. (Laughter) I'm not going to hurt you. Don't worry.

(music) This is a loop, feedback loop / This is a loop, feedback loop / This is a loop, feedback loop / This is a loop, feedback loop / This is a loop, feedback loop / This is a loop, feedback loop / This is a - (feedback)

All right. I don't know if that was necessary to demonstrate - (Laughter) - but my point is it's the sound of self-destruction.

And I've been thinking about how that applies across a whole spectrum of realms, from, say, the ecological, okay. There seems to be a rule in nature that if you get too close to where you came from, it gets ugly. So like, you can't feed cows their own brains, or you get mad cow disease, and inbreeding and incest and, let's see, what's the other one? Biological - there's autoimmune diseases, where the body attacks itself a little too over-zealously and destroys the host, or the person. And then - okay, this is where we get to the song - kind of bridges the gap to the emotional.

Because although I've used scientific terms in songs, it's very difficult sometimes to make them lyrical. And there's some things you just don't need to have in songs. So I'm trying to bridge this gap between this idea and this melody. And so, I don't know if you've ever had this, but when I close my eyes sometimes and try to sleep, I can't stop thinking about my own eyes. And it's like your eyes start straining to see themselves. That's what it feels like to me. It's not pleasant. I'm sorry if I put that idea in your head. (Laughter) It's impossible, of course, for your eyes to see themselves, but they seem to be trying. So that's getting a little more closer to a personal experience. Or ears being able to hear themselves - it's just impossible; that's the thing. So, I've been working on this song that mentions these things and then also imagines a person who has been so successful at defending themselves from heartbreak that they're left to do the deed themselves, if that's possible. And that's what the song is asking. All right. It doesn't have a name yet.

(Music) Go ahead and congratulate yourself / Give yourself a hand, the hand is your hand / And the eye that eyes itself is your eye / And the ear that hears itself is near / Cuz it's your ear, oh oh / You've done the impossible now / Took yourself apart / You made yourself invulnerable / No one can break your heart / So you wear it out / And you wring it out / And you wear it out / And you break it yourself / Breaking your own, break it yourself / Breaking your own, break it yourself / Breaking your own (Applause)

Thanks. (Applause) All right. It's kind of cool. Songwriters can sort of get away with murder. You can throw out crazy theories and not have to back it up with data or graphs or research. But, you know, I think reckless curiosity would be what the world needs now, just a little bit. (Applause) I'm going to finish up with a song of mine called "Weather Systems."

(Music) Quiet Quiet down, she said Speak into the back of his head On the edge of the bed, I can see your blood flow I can see your cells grow Hold still awhile Don't spill the wine I can see it all from here I can see oh, I I can see weather systems of the world Weather systems of the world Some things you say are not for sale I would hold it where our free agents of some substance are scared Hold still a while Don't spill the wine I can see it all from here I can see oh, I I can see weather systems of the world Weather systems of the world

Thanks. (Applause)

Courtesy of TED
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Claron McFadden shows the primal and fascinating variations of the human voice through a piece composed by John Cage.

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One-Man Orchestra of the Imagination- February 1, 2010

- Andrew Bird
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