I’m on a plane from Los Angeles to Shanghai reflecting on the events of the past year and how they brought me here today. Just last week, I was at Twentieth Century Fox studios presenting to a group of international business technology leaders my WHY Music initiative, including a new video and interactive prototype designed to help support a national music education program in Brazil. The event was Singularity University’s 2nd Annual Hollywood Executive Program. Bringing together the world’s experts in cutting-edge applied science and technologies, Singularity University encourages the use of exponential thinking and technology to solve humanity’s grand challenges.
The Fox Studios setting holds a special meaning for me. It was 20 years ago that I composed my first feature film soundtrack there for the film Nuns on the Run – Jonathan Lynn and George Harrison’s wacky British Comedy staring Eric Idle and Robbie Coltrane. It was then that I discovered it was possible to raise our test audience scores almost 300% by solely changing the music – a true testimony to the power of music in film. Beyond that lesson and my personal nostalgia, however, hosting the leaders of exponential technology in the historic center of Hollywood filmmaking, in order to explore how to make the world a better place, speaks to the very heart of my work today.
When I first learned about Singularity University’s mission from its founders and witnessed the high level of minds they were bringing together, I realized they would be great partners for anyone trying to create positive large-scale social change. I also recognized the need to build a bridge between the art of technology and the science of communication – between Hollywood and Silicon Valley, before we could work successfully together. As history has already demonstrated, technology alone is not enough to help humanity solve the many challenges facing the world today, or to help mankind adapt to the collateral damage of disruptive technologies. People are, at core, emotional beings.
Surviving in Hollywood requires understanding and adapting to technology, but succeeding in Hollywood, or in any far-reaching media platform, requires mastering what I like to call the Technologies of Emotion. On a large scale, these are most effectively shared through the power of music and story. Music is unique in that it affects our subconscious and shapes our feelings and beliefs without us even knowing it. This is an incredibly powerful alchemy when used for the good of society.
I have traveled the globe in the past year working on projects and evangelizing at different forums about how music is an essential ingredient in any successful recipe for the future of humanity. We need the Hollywoods and the Silicon Valleys of the world to work together, and on behalf of the greater good. It’s by combining the intrinsic power of music and story with the potential of technology and the impact of global media, that we can create the large-scale shifts in perception and values that are necessary for real and sustainable change.
Tonight I am flying to the Hollywood of the future for the Shanghai International Film Festival and world premier of Amazing – our 3D Sci Fi Film about the making of China’s first thought-controlled basketball video game. With the hi-powered cast, the Government film studio backing, new technology platforms and a partnership with the NBA (boasting the largest fan base of any sport or event in China), Amazing could reach over 100 million people in China alone.
Underneath the media hype and anticipation of the next great technology is the music – the emotional glue holding it all together. The music is helping us cross language and culture barriers between East and West and extend the reach and impact of the story far beyond the theatrical experience. The themes and songs from the film are already making their way into the hearts and minds of millions, and helping to engage audiences and drive awareness around larger social issues – like ethics in business, health and fitness for fans, and inspiring self-confidence and motivation for Chinese youth.
It is the combination of music and hope that put me on this plane tonight, and that inspires me to write to you now. Beyond China and the new soundtrack to Amazing, my hope is that I can help more people recognize just how powerful and beneficial music can be, and that society might one day believe in it enough to bring music back into the areas we need it most – education, health, self-empowerment and global peace building. As KRS-One sings in the chorus of the opening song “Tear down the walls, Baby, we don’t need em.”