A View from Blue Grotto

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Storytelling for the masses - the TED Talk

I love that TED Talks are available on I “Heart” Radio. I found them one morning on a run and became entranced as I listened to an obscure topic presented by Mark Ronson – whose official title is music producer and DJ. Ronson spent sixteen-plus minutes expertly describing and demonstrating the art of sampling music.

At first, Ronson’s topic about artists co-opting elements of other popular music tracks may sound very niche, you might skip it if you thought you had nothing to learn from a guy who first made a name for himself DJ’ing in New York and Atlantic City night clubs, but I was hooked.

The track Ronson chose to highlight was by Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh, titled La Di Da Di. According to Ronson, it is the fifth most sampled song of all time – sampled 547 times – and by artists including Notorious B.I.G. and Miley Cyrus, who, Ronson noted was not even born yet when the track was first released in 1984.

Then, months later, I heard a song on the radio written and produced by Ronson featuring Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk – with a beat and even lyrics that reminded me of Twin Cities’-artist Morris Day and The Time and I could hear what Ronson was talking about: an artist’s desire to insert themselves “into the narrative of a song while pushing that story forward.”

I circled back to his TED Talk. We all have a desire to incorporate ourselves into a narrative and we all feel compelled in some way to help push a story forward at one time or another. That is why storytelling, as a concept, has become so popular – in social media channels, in the corporate conference room, in nonprofit fundraising. We co-opt the storyline from many places, mostly in an attempt to learn from someone else’s experiences.

TED Talk storytelling is not just a version of campfire lore. It’s the telling, and our re-telling, of another’s story that can motivate us, inspire us, educate us, and even protect us. Sometimes an anecdotal account helps keep us from making the same mistake ourselves.

That’s why the TED Talks work. They not only allow a storyteller to engage a live audience but there is an opportunity to share the storyline around the planet, literally. Think of how many times a TED Talk, whether it’s as brief as six minutes or as lengthy as sixty-one minutes, is streamed around the planet. Anyone with a connection can plug in. That’s how I heard Mark Ronson that day, on I “Heart” Radio.

As I said, anyone could easily have passed over his Talk, for a more well-known speaker, like Melinda Gates, talking about fighting disease in Africa. But the TED Talks make it easy to hear the stories of many other people. People whose own lens of their work or their passion can inspire and educate the rest of us. And that is why right below the ‘play’ button are the ‘Share’ icons – you can “Share this idea” on Twitter, Facebook and by emailing a link.

That’s the part where we come in – pushing the story forward, as Mark Ronson says. By sharing these narratives we help to spread the word, we subtly encourage reflection and dialogue, and we expose a little bit of ourselves letting others in on the things we find worthy of sharing (you now know my obscure interest in pop music).

The TED library claims “1900+ talks to stir your curiosity” and though I listen to many, I could never get through them all, and they add more every year. I am curious to know which TED Talks you have listened to and enjoyed or recommended. And I am super curious to know what your TED Talk topic would feature given the chance to expound to a live audience. Mine would likely be something along the lines of “are you really capturing and sharing your own story?”

Below is the video of Mark Ronson’s Talk: (https://www.ted.com/talks/mark_ronson_how_sampling_transformed_music)

And the Uptown Funk video: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPf0YbXqDm0)

Tell me if you hear the similarity to Twin Cities-funk leaders Morris Day and Prince.

Yvonne Hundshamer
President, Blue Grotto Inc.

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