Michael Tilson Thomas is an American conductor, pianist and composer.
He is currently music director of the San Francisco Symphony, and artistic director of the New World Symphony Orchestra.
Tilson Thomas has conducted a wide variety of music and is a particular champion of modern American works. He is also renowned for his interpretation of the works of Gustav Mahler; he has recorded all nine Mahler symphonies and other major orchestral works with the San Francisco Symphony. These recordings have been released on the high-resolution audio format Super Audio CD on the San Francisco Symphony’s own recording label. Tilson Thomas is also known as a premier interpreter of the works of Aaron Copland, Charles Ives, and Steve Reich.
A sampling of Tilson Thomas’s own compositions include From the Diary of Anne Frank (1990), Shówa/Shoáh (1995),Poems of Emily Dickinson (2002) and Urban Legend (2002).
Tilson Thomas has also been devoted to music education. He leads a series of education programs titled Keeping Score which offers insight into the lives and works of great composers, and led a series of Young People’s Concerts with the New York Philharmonic.
Tilson Thomas also founded the New World Symphony in Miami in 1987. Most recently, Tilson Thomas has led two incarnations of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, which brings young musicians from around the world together for a week of music making and learning.
In this beautiful TED talk, Michael traces the development of classical music through the development of written notation, the record, and the re-mix.
But every musician strikes a different balance between faith and reason, instinct and intelligence. And every musical era had different priorities of these things, different things to pass on, different ‘whats’ and ‘hows’. So in the first eight centuries or so of this tradition the big ‘what’ was to praise God. And by the 1400s, music was being written that tried to mirror God’s mind as could be seen in the design of the night sky. The ‘how’ was a style called polyphony, music of many independently moving voices that suggested the way the planets seemed to move in Ptolemy’s geocentric universe. This was truly the music of the spheres.