And so we did it. The first Concept Album Talks took place on Tuesday evening at the Theodore Bullfrog in London.
The idea behind the Concept Album Talks is pretty simple. It came about as we were trying to think of an interesting way to structure a set of talks from interesting people. We liked the idea of giving our speakers some constraints to work with, to give them a little bit of a challenge. When you’re preparing a talk, the two most important things are the subject matter (what you are going to talk about) and the duration (how long you are going to talk for).
We realised that if you take the tracklisting from an album, then you have a list of subjects (the song titles) and durations (the lengths of each song) and the Concept Album Talks were born.
And so we devised a set of seven rules:
- We’ll pick a record.
- The name of the album will be the name of the event.
- Each talk will be a track on the album.
- We’ll arrange the speakers. Each speaker will be limited to the running time of the track.
- Each speaker will have to give a talk that makes sense of the track title.
- They won’t be able to talk about the song though.
- That’s it.
For the first event, we picked Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon. The song titles on this album work really well for what we had in mind – broad enough to be open to interpretation, yet all pointing in interesting directions:
1. Speak To Me (1:13)
The first (and shortest) talk of the evening saw Paul Booth from Kingston University pay tribute to his Great Uncle by playing a clip from one of the earliest speaking cartoons – which Paul’s Great Uncle had produced.
2. Breathe (2:46)
Saloni Krishnan from UCL showed us MRI footage of a beatboxer during her brief but fascinating talk on that most common and unconscious activity – breathing.
3. On The Run (3:35)
Tiahowler Biltawulf gave us a quick tour of the best places around the world to visit if you are on the run and seeking to avoid extradition. It seems Julian Assange’s current residence is a pretty good choice.
4. Time (7:04)
With over seven minutes to play with, Rory McEvoy from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich seemed to have longer than most of the other speakers, but what is time anyway?
5. The Great Gig In The Sky (4:48)
Physicist Colin Forsyth talked us through one of the most visually stunning sights any of us could ever hope to see – that great gig in the sky, the aurora borealis.
6. Money (6:23)
Daily Telegraph journalist Harry Wallop explained to us how money doesn’t grow on trees and explained what exactly those words on the back of a five pound note really mean.
7. Us And Them (7:50)
Sara Upstone talked to us about friends and friendship, about what happens if you try to make real life friends with those people on Facebook and how the very concept of “friends” can have a negative side.
8. Any Colour You Like (3:25)
Synaesthetic artist Timothy Layden gave us an insight into the way in which people with synaesthesia experience the world of overlapping sensory stimulus.
9. Brain Damage (3:50)
Neurologist Sophie Scott explained some of the many ways in which the brain can become damaged, the potential consequences and the best ways to keep your brain safe.
10. Eclipse (2:03)
Our first ever Concept Album Talks was finished off with a talk from our very own Hamish Thompson who talked about his fascination with Bonnie Tyler’s hair.
The night was fun and fascinating and we’ll be doing another one soon. One thing we learned though; if you are using a Twitter hashtag, be careful that it can’t be misread. We thought #conceptalbumtalks was pretty safe – hashtag concept album talks. That’s fine, right? However it seems there was the potential to misread it: