Welcome to the 11th post in our Journey in Dialog.
One of my favorite musicians is the world-renowned cellist, YO-YO MA. For him, music is dialog. He speaks of his music being communion between himself, his instrument, the scores, and his audience. When you watch him and listen to him, you become engaged with him as he seeks to be engaged with you.
In Krista Tippett’s On Being interview with MA, he refers to Isaac Stern who said that music happens between the notes.
Tippett points out that “YO-YO MA also makes music with a vast range of living artists, from Bobby McFerrin to the Kalahari Bushmen. His ‘Silk Road Project,’ named after the ancient trading route that joined the Mediterranean and the Pacific, knits far-flung contemporary worlds together by way of musical encounter and understanding.”
MA remembered what happened after 9/11 when orchestras and musicians had to decide whether to do their scheduled performances. They chose to perform as a way of being together. “Because,” added MA, “if you want to make something that’s memorable for somebody else, as well as for yourself — the purpose of playing, of doing live music, is that it’s like a communal witnessing of something.”
Tippett referred to a producer at NPR who observed that when MA performed, she sensed that he radiated joy. MA agreed that he chooses joy. It is like being a priest. “You’re looking for an elevated sense of being in existence — at least, that the music should somehow make us better.”
I can’t read a note of music, but when I listen to MA and feel the passion of his performing, we exchange meaning and our mutual empathies enable non-musical me to engage in dialog with super-musical MA.
In his Marsalis on Music series, Wynton Marsalis and YO-YO MA engage young students at the Tanglewood Music Center with the challenge of practicing. The last of 12 “rules” is “Connection” and the demonstration of Marsalis and MA performing an improvisational rendering of Duke Ellington’s Mood Indigo. I have listened to many renderings of this jazz classic, but this one is a milestone because I could see and hear in the DVD of this performance the “connections” – the non-verbal exchanges between Marsalis and MA as they performed with deep empathy and dialog. They listened to each other, looked at each other, and interpreted each other to bring a fresh meaning of the music to the notes they played.
“Great” musicians engage us in dialog with their music. No matter what our musical experience or competence might be, they bring out something in us that stretches us, inspires us, and moves us to be more than we were. And this from someone who can’t read a note of music.
© 2018 The Living Dialog™ Ministries
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