Yo-Yo Ma, Citizen Artist

cellist Yo-Yo Ma
cellist Yo-Yo Ma

Last week’s On Being interview with Yo-Yo Ma was a great reminder that Ma is more than one of the world’s great cellists. He’s a “citizen artist”, a philosopher, and an insightful commentator on the role of music in contemporary life.

These days, Yo-Yo Ma enjoys transcending imagined boundaries and playing a wide variety of music, most notably through his Silk Road ProjectHe considers the label “classical music” an arbitrary commercial category. He likens performing onstage to being the host of a party where soloist and audience share in a powerful communal experience. His belief in the importance of humanity in music-making was echoed last week in an interesting post by Neoclassical author, Holly Mulcahy.

What better way to start the week than by listening to Yo-Yo Ma perform the Prelude from the first of J.S. Bach’s Six Suites for Solo Cello? Listen to the way Bach is able to outline rich harmony using a single solo instrument.

The bow, which draws out sound, is the lungs. The strings on the instrument are the vocal chords.

-Yo-Yo Ma