Silk Road Journeys - When Strangers Meet
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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, October 2, 2012
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This recording includes music from Mongolia, China, Persia, Japan, Iran, Azerbaijan, and an improvisation on an Italian Renaissance street song, performed by musicians from all those countries, as well as America, on both Eastern and Western instruments. Ma, who participates in every piece either as soloist or part of the ensemble, plays cello and a Mongolian "horse-head fiddle." There is also a Mongolian soprano, who sings a traditional song native to her region. For the uninitiated Western listener, the music requires some getting used to. Much of it is based on rhythmic ostinatos. The melodies use Oriental scales; the intonation is untempered; the music seems all color, texture, and atmosphere, without what might be called themes; and repetition takes the place of development. Contrast is achieved through sudden change, buildup by adding instruments. However, the music is often beautiful, delicate, dreamy, or peaceful; every listener will find his or her own favorite pieces. The playing is splendid, with much inventive improvisation. Inevitably, Ma's tone and personality stand out, but he never dominates in fact or spirit. The booklet offers essays by Ma and the project's musicologist, Theodore Levin, photographs of the players, and drawings of the Eastern instruments. --Edith Eisler
Top Customer Reviews
But occasionally something comes along like Yehudi Menuhin's collaborations with Ravi Shankar or this, cellist Yo-Yo Ma's ambitious blend of classical instruments with the music of central and eastern Asia; and the potential for evolving new art from spliced traditions is realized.
This is not classical slumming, nor is it Middle Eastern folk music jazzed up. It hasn't the odd discontinuity one hears when the trained voice of an opera star sings gospel music or folk songs "correctly." The compositions and arrangements present a unified suite of sound, moving as comfortably as a caravan from Renaissance Italy (with a side trip to Finland!) to Persia, Mongolia, and into China.
The sound is exotic, from the initial shock of the piercing Mongolian street singer's shrill tremulo to the belly dance rhythms of the later pieces. The quality of the sound is impeccable, as one would expect of an artist as meticulous at Yo-yo Ma. I heard this on the radio, and ordered it immediately. How glad I am, that CDs don't wear out.
It is especially touching at this moment in time, when so much of our daily consciousness is caught up in the conflicts between cultures. This weaving together of musicians and instruments from different 'worlds' is healing for my soul at a level almost too deep to express. It portrays to me with delicate artistry what it means to be an individual member of a worldwide, ancient and variegated human race.
This disc is a lovely intersection for various musical ideas. As you probably know by now, the idea was to get a bunch of great musicians together from along various points of the historical Silk Road. Along with goods and spices, there was also a fair exchanging of less tangible things, such as art, music, ideas, etc...
That's what this disc is about. "Western classical music" is not the only classical music out there, and although historically the people most likely to be traveling the silk road, exchanging ideas and playing together would have been folk musicians, the concept still stands on its own here. Of particular resonance (at least to me) are the "Chinese" and "Iranian" tracks. I put those in quotes only because while it's true that all these songs (or at least their performances here) are hybridized, most of them still do have what could be called a "dominant influence" by one culture or another.
This disc will no doubt be heard differently by people of different backgrounds with these musics. For people who really never delve into "world music", this will no doubt sound quite "exotic".Read more ›
This has to be one of Yo-Yo Ma's finest CD's. With the cello there is such a magnificent blend of instruments that one feels right on the Silk Road. I found that the "silky" feeling is particularly strong on Track 5: Zhao Jiping: Moon over Guan Mountains through Tracks 6 and 7: Michio Mamiya: Five Finnish Folksongs and then Track 8 Avaz-e Dashti (Pesian Traditional)
but then continues in a different feel of different kinds of silk. Although it is an auditory feeling there is very much a kinesthetic feeling in this CD.
Besides traditional orchestral instruments, there is a fascinating array of musical instruments with their own kind of onomatopoeic names other than flutes, lutes, organs, drums, and fiddles. The printed insert is a superb piece of poetic writing to guide one on the origins of this Ensemble. It is certainly a masterpiece of music to listen to on one's own in particular. It is a kind of meditation and one where one can relate to immediately for peace of mind and spirit. The ensemble was formed on trust, according to Yo-Yo Ma. So "trust" me this is splendid! I look forward to more of this type of music.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Musicians from the countries along the old Silk Road, from the Mediterranean to the heartland of China, came together to share musical traditions and create new works. Read morePublished on June 29, 2014 by G. Jackson
While this was not quite what I expected, it grew on me. I now listen to this on the way to work imagining exotic places. It relaxes me and allows me to focus for work.Published on January 12, 2014 by Becky Lutzke