Daria van den Bercken: Why I take the piano on the road @ TEDSalon Berlin

I had the pleasure of attending a special TED event in 2014. TEDSalon Berlin was just a one day affair, yet it featured a number of compelling talks that served as examples of impactful stories on global issues. This post is an analysis of a talk and performance given by Daria van den Bercken.

Watch Daria van den Bercken’s TED Talk. It’s an unusual format, as Daria plays for the audience, but also includes a video of her playing in public – within her apartment, from behind a truck, and while suspended in midair.

Her idea is simple and straightforward – to listen to music in a state of wonder, to truly listen, and to listen without prejudice – which is how we tend to listen at a very young age.

Do you have a story to tell that is intended to shift perspectives about how we encounter the arts – music, theatre, art, dance? Can you combine a narrative with a demonstration to make your point?


Recently, I flew over a crowd of thousands of people in Brazil playing music by George Frideric Handel. I also drove along the streets of Amsterdam, again playing music by this same composer. Let’s take a look.

(Music: George Frideric Handel, “Allegro.” Performed by Daria van den Bercken.)

(Video) Daria van den Bercken: I live there on the third floor. (In Dutch) I live there on the corner. I actually live there, around the corner. and you’d be really welcome.

Man: (In Dutch) Does that sound like fun? Child: (In Dutch) Yes!

[(In Dutch) “Handel house concert”]

Daria van den Bercken: All this was a real magical experience for hundreds of reasons.

Now you may ask, why have I done these things? They’re not really typical for a musician’s day-to-day life. Well, I did it because I fell in love with the music and I wanted to share it with as many people as possible.

It started a couple of years ago. I was sitting at home on the couch with the flu and browsing the Internet a little, when I found out that Handel had written works for the keyboard. Well, I was surprised. I did not know this. So I downloaded the sheet music and started playing. And what happened next was that I entered this state of pure, unprejudiced amazement. It was an experience of being totally in awe of the music, and I had not felt that in a long time. It might be easier to relate to this when you hear it. The first piece that I played through started like this.


Well this sounds very melancholic, doesn’t it? And I turned the page and what came next was this.


Well, this sounds very energetic, doesn’t it? So within a couple of minutes, and the piece isn’t even finished yet, I experienced two very contrasting characters: beautiful melancholy and sheer energy. And I consider these two elements to be vital human expressions. And the purity of the music makes you hear it very effectively.

I’ve given a lot of children’s concerts for children of seven and eight years old, and whatever I play, whether it’s Bach, Beethoven, even Stockhausen, or some jazzy music, they are open to hear it, really willing to listen, and they are comfortable doing so.

And when classes come in with children who are just a few years older, 11, 12, I felt that I sometimes already had trouble in reaching them like that. The complexity of the music does become an issue, and actually the opinions of others – parents, friends, media – they start to count.

But the young ones, they don’t question their own opinion. They are in this constant state of wonder, and I do firmly believe that we can keep listening like these seven-year-old children, even when growing up. And that is why I have played not only in the concert hall but also on the street, online, in the air: to feel that state of wonder, to truly listen, and to listen without prejudice. And I would like to invite you to do so now.

(Music: George Frideric Handel, “Chaconne in G Major.” Performed by Daria van den Bercken.)

[Note: all comments inserted into this transcript are my opinions, not those of the speaker, the TED organization, nor anyone else on the planet. In my view, each story is unique, as is every interpretation of that story. The sole purpose of these analytical posts is to inspire a storyteller to become a storylistener, and in doing so, make their stories more impactful.]

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