Speaker Spotlight

Ysanne Spevack

TedXBend | 04.27.17

This year’s theme is “US Humans” What do you immediately think of when you ponder US Humans?

Our ability to be self-aware is what defines us humans from the rest of the animals. We have an ability to create thoughts that’s more advanced than other creatures.  It is exciting that we can modify our thoughts by adjusting what we perceive via our sense of hearing, smell, touch, sight, and taste. All of these perceptions bring insights about our outer and inner experiences, and how we connect with each other. Beauty also arises out of these sensory experiences we all have, and beauty has the power to raise empathy and compassion, and help us cope in these challenging times. That reminds of us our humanity – that’s what makes us human.

Who has had the most significant influence on you in your adult life and why? 

It’s tricky to pin this onto one person – we are all a product of a community, and of our wider society, and of nature too. And so while my answer would be different tomorrow, for this little moment, I’ll say my great uncle Eddie. He was a professional violinist who played in silent movie theaters, in the pit. He encouraged me as a small child to play music, and to think about how the world works. He was a collector of many different things – transistor radios, old phonographs, 78 records, and violins. His sense of curiosity about the world, and about art and culture, were infectious, and his sense of wonder continues to inspire me.

What is it about your work that keeps you going?

I’ve lived my life with creativity as the central pillar always – it’s the only way I know how to live. I started playing music when I was 4, so it’s been 40 years of not only playing music, but also expressing creativity as a multimedia artist. I developed my first recipe when I was about 4 too – a chocolate pie. Things haven’t changed! It’s been a scientific and artistic inter-twined journey for the whole course so far…

What is your passion outside your idea worth spreading?

I love music, food, gardens, books and movies. Also swimming, cycling, and going to art galleries. I love deep one-on-one conversations, and equally, I love a good party! And more than anything, I love traveling to new places, both rural and urban, and I adore the ocean, and resting in nature.

Where’s the one place you’ve visited that you’ll never forget and why?

Taiwan. I have a deep connection with this tiny, beautiful and diverse island, from the fabulous progressive society that’s there to the delicious fresh produce and the extraordinary high-tech creativity and ancient crafts and cultures. I was honored to attend the Golden Melody Awards in Taipei last year, which is their version of the Grammys, and the performances and spectacle was super-futuristic and fantastic. The national museum has the most extraordinary hand-crafted ancient arts, they’re equally exquisite in the opposite way. And the indigenous cultures on the island are cohesive, diverse, and deeply inspiring.

Describe an unforgettable moment that shaped who you are

Was it the moment I stepped off the plane in India? Or the day I first stepped of the plane in the USA? Or that time I stepped onto the stage of my first big theater? Was it my first kiss? Or the last kiss? Was it the moment I saw the first seed I’d sown unfurl its leaves and push up through the earth? Or the time I first hit the road with a major rock band and played my first stadium? Was it when I discovered medicinal herbs, or that moment I opened a package of raw cacao beans my friend Robert had grown on his farm? Was it the day the Los Angeles Times did a feature on me, or the day my friend passed away from cancer, leaving us wondering where he’d gone? Perhaps it was Christmas Day in the pool in LA, having been there for a week, and deciding – just like that! – I was going to stay in California. Or that moment in November 2016 when I was in a creative multisensory experience I was working on with a friend and had a realization in that moment of art that I wasn’t going to give birth to a child after all, leading to an ‘invisible grief’ that’s the isolated yet shared experience of so many women in our Western world. No, it can’t have been any of these moments – and it must have been all of these moments, and so many more to come…  because I haven’t yet formed, and never shall. We are constantly being shaped and changed, our plastic brains adapting to every twist and turn of our lives, and a creative life is a particularly fluid kind of experience, so I am grateful for every moment that shapes this experience, especially the unforgettable ones, but also the passing daily life that constitutes the bulk of who I have been shaped to be.

List three words that describe you.

Intelligent, creative, progressive

Are there any books that contributed to who you are? Is so, which one(s)?

How Music Expresses Ideas – Sidney Finkelstein

Kobbe’s Opera Book – Earl of Harewood

Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate – Wendy Johnson

The Republic – Plato

Entertaining – Martha Stewart

The Bible

Hope in the Dark – Rebecca Solnit

Southern California Gardening – Pat Welsh

For your talk content, what’s recommended reading?

The Original Art of Music – Dorothy Ling

The Sense of Beauty – George Santayana

Theory of Colours – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Neurogastronomy – Gordon M Brook-Shepherd

Animal Eyes – MF Land and DE Nilsson

Why do you want to speak at TEDxBend?

The very first night I ever slept in the USA was spent under canvas on Mount Shasta here in Oregon. It was 1992, and I’d flown into Seattle before jumping on the Green Tortoise bus down to San Francisco. I was fresh out of London, which is where I was born and raised, and I had no idea where I was. It seems that America made a great first impression on me, as I couldn’t get it out of my mind, and my soul. That night in Oregon probably shaped me more than any other night I’ve slept anywhere else, as I eventually moved to the USA and started a new chapter here. I’m excited to spend a significant experience here in Bend and to deepen my relationship with the nature of beautiful Oregon, and in the West that I think of as home, despite my current base being in New York City. I’m looking forward to presenting this talk to the people of Bend, and to learning more about your lives and dreams.

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