Christian Long

Itay Talgam: Lead Like the Great Conductors

In TED Talks on April 26, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Reflection by DEVON H.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Itay Talgam: Lead Like the Great Conductors

You have all seen different conductors. Each of them with a different style of conducting. You may not realize that each one puts their own flair in their leading, but they really do. The biggest point that Itay Talgam is trying to come across is that the greatest conductors actually don’t conduct, they just keep time and allow the orchestra to play.

Talgam played eight different clips of conductors and their techniques. The first conductor was conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. He was very playful and really enjoying himself as he was “leading” the orchestra. If you notice, and Talgam points this out, the instrumentalists rarely look up at him. He has a smile on his face the entire time and shows the playfulness of the song in his conducting.

The second conductor was almost the complete opposite of the first. His movements are very large and aggressive. He gives every cue, and if you miss it you are dead. He takes the simplistic action of a cut-off and makes it into its own production. This type of conducting is sometimes preferred by orchestras, because they don’t have to worry about missing an entrance. Each entrance is given to them point blank.

The third conductor was very minimalist. He almost never looks up, and all he does with his hands is keep time. He also turns the pages of his music. Now, you may think “Every conductor turns the page. How else would they know where they are in the music?”. Well, normally a conductor directing his own music does not need to turn the pages, because the music is all in his head. Talgam points out that he actually turns the pages to send a message to the orchestra. He is telling them that it does not matter what their interpretation of the music is, or even what his is. The turning of the pages tells the orchestra to make sure they are following the music by the book. Every note, every accent, every decrescendo and crescendo must be done the way it is written.

The fourth conductor is similar to the second conductor, but his motions are not as aggressive. He uses his entire arms to lead the music, but he does not give clear cues. He brings his orchestra in by just sweeping his arm across on the beat with his eyes shut. He does this to ensure his orchestra listens to each other very carefully. When he gives a cue the sections look at the top chairs in their section and they follow their lead. This conductor had a flutist come to play a solo in one of his concerts. When he went to cue her, she stopped him and asked him when he wanted her to come in. He just responded saying, “Whenever you can’t stand it anymore.”

The fifth clip was actually of the first conductor with a different orchestra. In this clip he uses his entire body to lead the orchestra in the song, but even still he does not give them blatant cues. He does not instruct them at all. His sweeping motions allow them open the music and create layers in the music. The authority is there if it is needed, as shown when a trumpet player makes three consecutive mistakes. You can see the look on his face when the trumpet player plays out of the music each time.

The sixth conductor was another example of the “there but not really there” mentality. He is standing in front of the orchestra moving his arms, but he is not commanding at all. He even stops conducting all together during the solo and just listens. He doesn’t try to control the orchestra. Instead, he just sits back and enjoys the wonderful music of the amazing orchestra in front of him.

The next conductor was similar to the fourth conductor. He also closed his eyes and just let the music take him away. He had sweeping motions with his hands, and eventually he even brings down the baton to soften his motions. Also, as the music changed so did his face. The mood of the song is completely portrayed in his face. If the song was painful, his face showed pain.

The final conductor was my favorite of them all with the orchestra playing Haydn’s Symphony No. 88. This conductor led the orchestra with his arms crossed. The only instruction was with his face. He would either shift his eyes to the section to come in, or lift his eyebrows to signal them to come in. Although he was leading the orchestra he was mainly just enjoying the music. I absolutely love Haydn’s 88th Symphony. It is a very uplifting and joyful song.

Seeing the many different techniques pertains to more than just conducting. It pertains to leadership as well. Each person has their own leadership techniques. Some choose to give strict instructions, some give looser instructions and tell you to go for it. Whichever way it may be is unique to the individual.


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