- Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out thy Usual Shtick.
This is especially pertinent for anyone whose principal day job involves lecturing on music. In places where academics/musicologists seem to be the first port of call as speakers (and where talks are more often than not referred to as “lectures”) there is all too often a nagging sense that what the audience is hearing is simply a variant of material prepared for the classroom.
- Thou Shalt Dream a Great Dream, or Show Forth a Wondrous New Thing, Or Share Something Thou Hast Never Shared Before.
- Thou Shalt Reveal thy Curiosity and Thy Passion.
- Thou Shalt Tell a Story.
- Thou Shalt Freely Comment on the Utterances of Other Speakers for the Sake of Blessed Connection and Exquisite Controversy.
This is more difficult to achieve outside a conference, but for pre-concert speakers, referring to or commenting upon the program book – even disagreeing with it – can be a good thing. And connecting the current concert with previous and future programs as well as other events in the city does make for blessed connection. (Talking about Shostakovich? Lady Macbeth playing in the theatre next door? Draw the link. Talking about Stravinsky’s ballet music? The national ballet company planning productions? Ditto.)
- Thou Shalt Not Flaunt thine Ego. Be Thou Vulnerable. Speak of thy Failure as well as thy Success.
Shalt Not Sell from the Stage: Neither thy Company, thy Goods, thy
Writings, nor thy Desperate need for Funding; Lest Thou be Cast Aside
into Outer Darkness.
Fortunately, this is extremely rare. But once in a blue moon I hear a speaker indulge in self-promotion and/or touting for audience feedback during the talk itself. Cringe!
- Thou Shalt Remember all the while: Laughter is Good.
But thou must also remember that some audiences will get thy humour more readily than others and there’s no helping this. (I’ve a sneaking suspicion it has to do with the night of the week more so than the subscription series but have yet to formulate a proper theory on the matter.)
- Thou Shalt Not Read thy Speech.
I’d clarify this for pre-concert talks by saying that working from a script is fine – and in fact it’s desirable when the talk involves many tightly integrated audio examples. What is not fine is preparing a script that is “writerly” and doesn’t reflect how you’d naturally speak. (No one wants to hear you read an essay. Begone, ye long subsidiary clauses and convoluted constructions!)
- Thou Shalt Not Steal the Time of Them that Follow Thee.
That would be the concert. People need time to get to the loo… On the other hand, don’t finish too early. We’ve made the effort to arrive 45 minutes or an hour early to hear about the program – don’t sell us short.
I may yet develop my own set of ground rules to include the things that relate specifically to talks about music. (First among these will be: “Thou shalt not talk blithely over the top of music as if it were merely a soundtrack.”) Until I do, TED’s commandments make a lot of sense.