January 5, 2015
Colloquium Speaker: Thomas Dolby Robertson
For over three decades Thomas Dolby Robertson has crafted a career that blends music and technology. An early star on MTV, his intelligent videos and songs like "She Blinded Me With Science" and "Hyperactive" became huge hits, standing the test of time. His keyboard and production work put him in the studio and on stage with the likes of David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Roer Waters and Joni Mitchell, garnering him numerous awards and five Grammy™ Nominations.
Recognizing the opportunities for digital distribution of music via the Internet and later through wireless phones, Thomas started Beatnik Inc. in the early 1990s, where he co-authored the audio layer of Java, created the first interactive music sites on the Web, and licensed technology to Nokia, Samsung and Panasonic, to co-develop the embedded software synthesis ‘polyphonic’ ringtone engine that has shipped in billions of handheld devices.
For 12 years, Thomas served as Musical Director of the world-famous TED Conference. More recently he has returned to the stage, taking his transmedia ‘Invisible Lighthouse Tour’ around the US and Europe. His first new studio album in 20 years ‘A Map Of The Floating City’ was released in 2011 to universal critical acclaim, and was accompanied by the self-created, multi-user social networking game ‘The Floating City.’ His self-directed short film, ‘The Invisible Lighthouse’ won Best Director and Best Documentary Short awards at the Los Angeles DIY Film Festival.
From the Fall of 2014 Thomas will take up an honorary appointment as Professor of the Arts at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore USA.
Thomas tells his story by way of some of the oddball synthesizers and technologies he has used during his 35 years in the Music Business. Giant monophonic synths that wouldn't stay in tune; valve limiters that took 20 minutes to warm up; transformational innovations like the Fairlight CMI, cost-smashing revelations like ProTools and the MacBook Pro, and the seemingly limitless possibilities of new apps for Android and iOS. He concludes that he was happiest back in the days when he had to pingpong between tracks on a stereo Teac reel-to-reel, using a disco lighting switcher to play the drums.