Choosing Your World | Conductor Benjamin Zander | Google Zeitgeist

Choosing Your World | Conductor Benjamin Zander | Google Zeitgeist

a lot of stories about conductors, mostly told
by orchestra players. And one of my favorites is the
one about Toscanini, who was a very great conductor, who had
the ability to galvanize people to great passion and
intensity and expression, and he also had a temper,
famous temper. Apparently, when he did one of
these temper tantrums, he took his watch and smashed
it on the floor. I heard recently he bought
them wholesale. Anyway, the story goes that in
the middle of the rehearsal he saw that one of the players in
the double bass section wasn’t playing very well, and he
shouted at him, “You’re fired!” This was in the
days before the union. We can’t do that now. But in those days, you could
fire a musician without any explanation or recourse. That would be the end
of his career. So this poor man had to go home,
tell his wife he didn’t have a job. As he left the room for the last
time, he turned around and shouted at Toscanini,
“You’re a no good son of a bitch.” And Toscanini shouted
back, “It’s too late to apologize.” [LAUGHTER] That’s the old style
of leadership. It’s top-down, hierarchical,
right-thinking, and male. And it served humanity for
about 75,000 years. Now, I used to be that
kind of a leader. Not quite as extreme, but I was
successful as a conductor. But I paid a high price in
terms of the energy, well-being, and self-expression
of the people around me. And then I had a quite
extraordinary event that happened in my life. It was almost like a road to
Damascus event for me. I was 45 years old, and I’d be
conducting for 20 years or more, and suddenly I had a
realization, for the first time, that the conductor
of an orchestra doesn’t make a sound. Now, my picture appears on
the front of the CD. But the conductor doesn’t
actually make a sound. He depends, for his power, on
his ability to make other people powerful. And when that occurred to me,
it was so profound, had such an effect, that people in my
orchestra said, Ben, what happened to you? And that’s what happened. I realized that my
job was to awaken possibility in other people. Now, it became from there a real
question whether I was doing that. And the way you find out whether
you’re doing that is to look at their eyes. If their eyes are shining,
you know you’re doing it. And if the eyes are
not shining, you get to ask a question. And this is the question: who
am I being that my players’ eyes are not shining? We can do that with
our children. Who am I being that
my childrens’ eyes are not shining. Now, from this moment and from
this discovery, Roz and I started exploring together
a new kind of leadership. Now, we distinguished
two worlds– two worlds. One world we called the
downward spiral. The world of the downward
spiral, in which Toscanini was conducting his orchestra. The world of the downward
spiral is the world of competition, competition in
which you might be energized, but you might also
be demoralized. The world of fear and pressure,
in which you might be galvanized to great things,
and at the same time, you might be paralyzed. So the lines come down
and they also go up. It is the world in which
we live normal life. Most conversations take place
in the downward spiral. Gossip and all the magazines
that depend on it take place in the downward spiral. TV shows that we’re used to. The Apprentice, a perfect
example of the downward spiral. How To Be A Survivor. We have another program, How
To Be A Millionaire. And I learned about another
one today called Million Pound Drop. Those are all downward spiral
conversations and games. The stock market is a perfect
image for the downward spiral. Sometimes it goes up and
sometimes it goes down. And we have to constantly
observe to see whether it’s up or whether it’s down, which
gives us much excitement and also much dis-ease
as it goes down. That’s the world. Sports, of course, full of
downward spiral, but in sports it doesn’t matter because
we all go out for a beer afterwards. But our educational system is
based on a downward spiral, because there’s nowhere to
go from an A but down. And so we shouldn’t be
surprised if our children look anxious. Right now, many of you have
young children who are worried about whether they’re going to
get into college and accepted or rejected. We have a 4-year-old who’s
worried that he may not get into preschool. So this is a world of
measurement and a world of comparisons. Sometimes it seems as though
it’s the only world, which is not the case, which is why I
asked for another flip chart. This world is called the world
of radiating possibility, and it has a completely different
shape, going out like this. This is a world of shared
commitments, shared involvements, of
open-heartedness, of open-mindedness, of contribution, of love, of health– both personal and international and for the world– collaboration, curiosity,
and grandchildren. Those of you when you get
to my age will have this experience of having
grandchildren. One of mine, who’s six, doesn’t
walk, she skips everywhere she goes,
like this. Now, you don’t see this
much on Wall Street. They don’t do that
on Wall Street. If somebody did that on Wall
Street, they’d come along in a white van and take them away. But all my grandchild is saying
is I’m happy to be here and I’m happy you
are here, too. And there’s a piece of music
which goes with that, which is the Beethoven’s “7th Symphony,”
which some of you know it goes like
[SINGING RHYTHM]. That’s actually a very
hard rhythm to keep. That rhythm tends to fall
into [SINGING RHYTHM]. If you’re a little lazy,
[UNINTELLIGIBLE] [SINGING RHYTHM], which is a march. You can do that for hours. This rhythm is [SINGING RHYTHM]. That’s the rhythm of skipping. When I did the recording of it–
which, incidentally, you can get at– the orchestra, which was a
wonderful orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, played,
[SINGING RHYTHM]. After a while, they got a
bit tired and played, [SINGING RHYTHM]. I said no, no, the rhythm
is [SINGING RHYTHM]. Oh yes, [SINGING RHYTHM]. It kept on falling back. My job is to remind the players
what the rhythm of transformation is, because
transformation lives here, and the rhythm of transformation
is lighter and brighter and faster and more buoyant
than the rhythm of exhortation and blame. You should, you would,
you must, you need. So what we know about this world
over there is that life unfolds in the story we tell. It’s, in other words,
an invented world. Now, you probably know the story
of the two show salesmen who were sent to Africa in the
1900s from Manchester in order to find out if they could
sell shoes in Africa. And they wrote telegrams back
to base in Manchester. And one of them wrote,
“Situation hopeless. Stop. They don’t wear shoes.” The
other one wrote, “Glorious opportunity, they don’t
have any shoes yet.” Now those two stories
are told about circumstances that are identical. The circumstances hadn’t
changed, only what changes is what we say about it. And you notice that even the
music of that statement, “Situation hopeless, they
don’t wear shoes,” and “Glorious opportunity, they
don’t have any shoes yet,” along with the hand motion, is
a totally different world and we get to choose at every moment
of every single day which place we’re standing in. Now, it may seem to some of
you that this sounds like positive thinking. It is not positive thinking. Positive thinking is saying
something is great when you know it’s shitty. [LAUGHTER] And it’s stupid, and
it belongs in the downward spiral. Possibility is something quite
different, and I’m going to tell you a story. My father who, as he told you,
he was quite a remarkable man. He had an amazing ability to
turn things upside-down. He used to say, there’s no such
thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. That was his way. And he was a survivor from the
Holocaust. He lost his mother in Auschwitz, and he lost
eight brothers– members of his family. And he lost everything. He lost his home, his
belongings, his money, his profession. And he came to England
with four children to support and a wife. And then he was interned. They had internment camps in
those days for Germans, and they put them all
in these camps. There were 2,000 men
living in tents. And the state of fear and
anxiety under which these people lived must have been
virtually unbearable. Some of them were so stressed
that they sat, my father told me, against the barbed
wire fence for the entire time of the day. Now, he looked around and
said, there are a lot of intelligent people here. We should have a university. And so they started a university
in that camp, with 40 classes running regularly. No paper, no pencils, no books,
no blackboard, nothing. Just people talking
to each other. That is possibility. He didn’t say this situation is
great and pretend that it was positive. He simply made up his mind to
create something out of circumstances that seemed
to have no hope and no possibility in them. That is the secret
of possibility. The art of possibility, which is
the name of a book, is the art of moving from
here to there. And leadership is taking
people with you. That’s simply what it
is, this new view. Now, central to this is
the notion of vision. In the middle of this circle
I’m going to put the word vision, because that
is crucial. Now, there’s a great deal of
misunderstanding about vision. If you go to the London
Business School– many of you have been there–
in the hallway of the London Business School there is a very
large stone plaque, which says, “Our vision is to be the
preeminent business school in the world.” I went to the
director and I said, you know that’s not really a vision. She said, I know, but it’s
written in stone. [LAUGHTER] Now, a vision, to be a vision,
has to be for everybody. There must be nobody
who’s left out. The Boston Philharmonic
has a vision. Our orchestra is called– our
vision is “Passionate music-making without
boundaries.” And that’s the thing that leads our
organization. Our orchestra’s not run by a
person, it’s run by a vision. And every conversation we have
and every discussion is led by that vision. So we had a discussion recently
about ticket prices for next year. They have to go up, yes, by all
means, they will go up, but not the cheapest
ones, they’ve been the same for 30 years. Passionate music-making
without boundaries. See, that’s how it works. The Boston Symphony, which
is the other great orchestra in Boston– the richest orchestra in
the world, actually– if you give your tickets back to
the Boston Symphony because you can’t use them at the
weekend, they resell them and make more money. If you give your tickets back to
the Boston Philharmonic, we give them to Rosie’s Place,
which is a homeless shelter, because there are many people
at the homeless shelter who love classical music but they
can’t afford the tickets. So there was somebody at a
meeting I went to recently who was standing over here firmly
and said, 3% of the population likes classical music. If we could move it to 4%, our
problem would be over. I say everybody loves classical
music, they just haven’t found out
about it yet. Now, the question is: how would
you walk, how would you talk, how would you be if you
thought 3% of the population likes classical music
[MUMBLING]? How would you walk, how would
you talk, how would you be if you thought everybody liked
classical music, they just haven’t found out about it? So these two words are
absolutely separate. The vision under which I run
my life is that everybody understands and loves
classical music. But let’s experiment
here and see. We have a very interesting
situation. We have a young pianist,
her name is Olga. I have never met her before. I’ve been told she’s
a wonderful pianist. We’ve never met. She has no idea what’s
going on here. She just walked in. And I’ve asked her to come
and play for us. And so we’re going to
see what happens. She’s going to play the first
movement of the “Moonlight Sonata” of Beethoven. We welcome Olga. Thank you for coming. Please, go to the piano. [APPLAUSE] [MOONLIGHT SONATA] BENJAMIN ZANDER: Now, first of
all I want everybody to clap because [INAUDIBLE]. [APPLAUSE] Now, so Olga, you’re an
extraordinary musician and you’re a beautiful pianist, and
you have amazing capacity to hold the concentration
of the listeners. I have some good news
and some bad news. This is a group of
people divided up into three sections. The first section are people– it’s quite a small section– they are people who love
classical music. They will listen to classical
music at every moment of the day or night. They have their radios
permanently on the FM radio classical station. They go to the symphony. They have CDs in their car. Their children are learning
instruments. They go to the symphony. They are passionate. They would be willing to
listen to you forever. We don’t have to worry
about them. That’s the good news. [APPLAUSE] The second group of people
in this room are– they don’t mind classical
music. You know, They don’t mind it. They come home from a long day
in the office and they take a glass of beer, a little Vivaldi
in the background doesn’t do any harm. That’s the second group. [LAUGHTER] And then the third group are the
people who actually never listen to classical music. It’s just not part
of their life. But leave out the first group. The second group, although they
were absolutely riveted on you at the beginning,
gradually lost their concentration. I noticed a couple of
them actually take out their cell phones. That’s the sad news, isn’t it? And halfway through this
movement, you had actually lost all the people except the
ones who were passionate about classical music. And there’s a reason for that. It’s not because you’re not
fabulously gifted and a wonderful pianist, it’s because
you’ve misunderstood what Beethoven was
trying to say. All right. So shall we look at this? Let’s look and see what happens,
because my dream is that we will find that every
single person in this room actually loves and understands
classical music. You know, one of the
characteristics of a leader is that the leader never doubts
the capacity of the people he’s leading to realize whatever
he’s dreaming. Imagine if Martin Luther King
had said, I have a dream, of course, I’m not sure they’ll
be up to it. [LAUGHTER] OK. So they are up to it. So let’s see what happened. First of all, the melody
is not here. [PLAYING PIANO]. That’s not the melody. So the melody must be
in the left hand. So let’s hear the melody
in the left hand. [PLAYING PIANO]. So what’s happening is it starts
on a C sharp, it goes down, [PLAYING PIANO], and back to the same C sharp. So could you play it in such a
way that they hear the first C sharp and the second C
sharp are connected? Here it is. [PLAYING PIANO AND SINGING]. Should we get them to sing it? OLGA: Yes. BENJAMIN ZANDER: Let’s
get them to sing it. OK, here comes. All right, everybody. You conduct. Here. Everybody’s singing. Are you ready? [SINGING NOTES]. Good. Can you get them to really hear
that the first C sharp and the last C sharp
are identical? I’ll play this time and
you conduct them. Are you ready? Here we go. Great. [SINGING AND PLAYING PIANO] Ah, oh is that beautiful. Did you hear how beautifully
they sang? Wow. This is the– it’s the Google choir. [LAUGHTER] I heard both C sharps. Now, I’m going to point
something out to you that is going to absolutely shock you. Because if you do that again and
I play the triplets, look what’s happened. You conduct them again. [SINGING AND PLAYING PIANO]. It’s twice as fast. It’s twice
as fast. Isn’t that amazing? Now, for 180 years, which is
the time that has elapsed since Beethoven wrote that, the
world has misunderstood how this piece goes. And the reason is because
Beethoven didn’t say anything about moonlight. You know that? Do you know who said
moonlight? It was the publisher. He thought it’d sell more copies
if he said moonlight. And he was right. This piece has sold more copies
than any other piece of music in the history
of the world. And he thought, the publisher
thought, that if he said moonlight, and the pianists
all went like this, [PLAYING PIANO], which is fine for the opening,
because even the tone deaf people would be moved by that. But when you get to this,
[PLAYING PIANO], you’ve even lost the classical
music lovers. It sounds like somebody
practicing. [PLAYING PIANO]. It makes no sense. It’s clearly nonsense. So should we find out really? Now, what Beethoven wrote was
not “Moonlight Sonata,” he wrote “Sonata Quasi Una
Fantasia.” A fantasy. It’s a fantasy. So let’s see where we
can find a fantasy. [MOONLIGHT SONATA] [APPLAUSE]

65 thoughts on “Choosing Your World | Conductor Benjamin Zander | Google Zeitgeist

  1. Oh my goodness! I'm gonna practice playing it that way and re-upload it to my youtube. That was lifechanging!

  2. "Atonement camps for germans in England"
    Sorry, I'm a bit clueless on the point. I can't find any information about those camps – Does anyone know anything more about this?
    Thumbs up please 🙂

  3. Atonement would be an interesting concept. But it's internment. German refugees – large numbers classified by the Nazis as Jews, and therefore in fear of their lives – were interned by the panicking British after the 1940 invasion of the Netherlands. Internment = imprisonment. Why imprisoned? Because they were Germans. The official classification was "friendly enemy aliens". Tortured language revealing how shameful British officials involved knew internment of helpless refugees was.

  4. maybe if you go to school…and learn how to spell "buy", you might have a change getting that money for the piano

  5. Lessons learned from watching this talk
    1. run team by vision
    2. every conversation and discussion needs to be led by the vision
    3. never doubt the people that you are leading
    – "one of the characteristics of a leader is that the leader never doubts the capacity of the people he’s leading to realize whatever he’s dreaming" by Benjamin Zander
    4. know your piece through and through; if you truly want to truly lead someone to his ultimate capacity, comprehend your piece deeply to an ultimate level
    – Benjamin Zander was able to lead the pianist to her capacity for the music piece because of his deep understanding of the music piece and his ultimate faith that his pupil can make his dream come true.

  6. some of the ceo/MBA viewers who are new to Ben Zander as a musician/ conductor would probably enjoy and be nourished by watching one of his master classes with young adult musicians even if they are not professional or hobbyist musicians themselves. videos of the classes are available on YouTube and good for watching inside on a rainy or snowy day.

  7. yes, I he must have found it very hard to deal with his encroaching deafness and the way he composed and performed may well have reflected this (I don't know how Beethoven played this piece). But even he, in his genius, may not have been fully aware of the potential his music can have on people by reinterpretation by someone with a different outlook.

  8. I'm sorry, but he should shut his mouth if he wants me to enjoy the piano reinterpretation of the piece. He' ruins it.

  9. What the fuck is this guy Zander on? Can someone blast him into space and back to the planet Zog where he cam from?

  10. The leader never doubts the capacity of the people he's leading to realize whatever he's dreaming. Our job is to awaken the possibility of others (within themselves).

  11. Nothing but meaningless words. You're one of the musicians who think they know better than the composer himself. Beethoven wrote it 216 years ago in Adagio sostenuto, not in Allegro Vivace. In the tempo you wanted, it's a porridge, not a music. Even the main theme in a fast tempo sounds like a superficial march, but not like the deep darkness of Beethoven. And yes, it was named "Moonlight" by the poet Ludwig Rellstab. So what? That was his interpretation, and if you don't like it change the story you want to tell, not the music.
    Oh and P.S: Please don't sing while the performance, you can ruin it more than you've already done.

  12. Zander definitely woke me up! I love his interpretation classes and he inspired me about leadership in this one. He is a man of deepest wisdom about humankind!

  13. People noted how creepy at the end but they didn't realize how privileged it is to have a world class conductor passionately conducting your playing right behind your neck 😀

  14. Innovative thinking outside of the box.
    A true artist has his or her own vision.
    That's what makes a great artist.
    Also there is a spiritual energy that can imbue the music with a quality
    That is transcendent. You can play life safe or as a great adventure.
    Your choice. And rare is the teacher that can pass that on to his students.
    Sometimes it takes a shock to wake up a student to their own greatness.

  15. Right! And now the real historical context…

    The Tempest was named after a Novel by William Shakespear the tempest. Also the Mondschein was named after a nineteenth century novel by a German Author, which told a about a dark room draped by black curtains . Shortly before his death towards a visitor Beethoven referred to both novels and he had them in his library. He suggested that the Moonlight Sonata should only be performed in such a room. He was not very happy about the fact that people considered this his best Sonata and Sonata Quasi una Fantasia refers to the connection to the novel (as with Tempest) and to the form of the sonata. It starts with a slow movement – yes, slow adagio sostenuto ( to be played in a sustained or prolonged manner. ) Beethoven himself wrote in the score that it had to be performed 'senza sordini' to underline sustained and prolonged. Not the fancy of his publisher… At this speed it would even at a Hammerklavier sounded quite messy.

    So… good choice of dress by the pianist and I admire the ability of the speaker to convey his personal interpretation in such a manner, that it suggests fact… And no the audience will not when they arrive home all suddenly be converted to love of classical music. No. It was all just new and interesting and inspiring…

  16. An interesting experience, even if I personally find the "conventional" interpretation more emotionally moving. Besides, I suspect that the latter one is closer to what Beethoven actually intended. Nevertheless, an unusual perspective always can be inspiring, no doubt about that.

  17. I never played because the established way to play it I hated. Deep in my mind I have this conflict, this doesn't have any shit to a moonlight this has to be played differently. Wonders! I never dare to changed so I didn't play it . NOW! I am going to fix my old bang up piano, and has to be my piano because he deserved it and played like it should be. Thanks!Many thanks Dr. Zander! ¡Wow it was liberating!

  18. I don't know about the fast tempo.. Czerny, who was a pupil of Beethoven and heard him perform his music marked the tempo at 60 for fourth notes, which is still a little faster than it's normally played, but nowhere near the tempo in this video. May not be a hundred percent accurate, but together with the fact that Beethoven wrote Adagio Sostenuto over the movement, it is safe to say that Zander's statement that everyone has been misunderstanding Beethoven's intentions is daring. It's still refreshing to see someone fearlessly go against conventions especially with such a popular piece. And I do think that the result is great music. But it's not Beethoven.

  19. "Though the conductor's picture is on the cover of the CD, he doesn't make a sound. He depends for his power on his ability to make others powerful." – Benjamin Zander

  20. This guy is creepy or he was lying about not meeting his girl before. Keep your hands off strangers. And he insults her playing!!! This had to be staged

  21. Zander is like half, Glenn Gould, he does the singing without the playing. Just kidding, enormous respect to this man.

  22. There are great music conductors, there are inspiring life coaches, and there are great conductors of where to find courage to live from the music in our souls.

    Benjamin Zander brings to life what we all know, that we create this world by the stories we tell (8:14 – 8:22 ish?).
    The tragedy of the Holocaust that his family fled from resulted in the blooming of this man. He always stumbles over his words on describing memories of that time. Yet he held in his feelings to communicate how his father coped. I have seen documentaries of now very elderly survivors of concentration camps. There's something in their eyes, a love, hope, ?, I don't know, but it allows them to transcend their past, to perhaps choose to tell a story of hope rather than suffering, their eyes shine with energy and hope for what will be, not despair at what was.

    I need to buy this book, and I am a new lover of the music of Chopin and of Beethoven. Right now, for the first time in years, I remember how I coped with difficulties in life before so much destruction without reprieve floored me; and for the first time in over a decade, my eyes are shining.

    I, like us all, just needed reminding. Thank you Mr. Zander.

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