The Music of Strangers

Synopsis: Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and other international artists of The Silk Road Project discuss their philosophies on music and culture.
Director(s): Morgan Neville
Production: Tremolo Productions
  5 wins & 5 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
96 min

So, this is my cello.

Have you ever seen one before?

...the many faceted career

of cellist Yo-Yo Ma is

a testament to his

continual search

for new ways to communicate

with audiences...

Mr. Ma maintains a balance

between his engagements

and his solo...

He's recorded over 90 albums,

including more than 17

Grammy Award winners.

...studied at the

Juilliard School...

I didn't get in there...

...President's Committee on

the Arts and the Humanities.

After Mr. Ma's remarks tonight,

we will have an opportunity

to ask questions...

So without any further ado,

please welcome Yo-Yo Ma.

Hi there.


I'll start off with this.

There's an old joke.

A six-year-old boy

tells his father,

"When I grow up, I want

to be a musician."

And the father looks at the son,

shakes his head sadly, and says,

"I'm sorry, son,

you can't do both."

I think when I was a kid,

a lot of things just happened.

There has come to us this year

a young man aged seven,

bearing the name Yo-Yo Ma,

a Chinese cellist playing

old French music

for his new American


Being good at something

can carry you really far

for a long period of time,

and not require a lot

of introspection, right?

Because... you're good at it

and everyone tells you that.

I would think that somebody

who has mastered his art

so early in life, so completely,

would have the problem that

most wunderkinder have,

which is, how do you

keep your interest up?

That's part of my problem. When

you grow up with something,

you kind of don't make a choice.

I never committed to

being a musician.

You know? I just did

it, I fell into it.

I was interested in a

lot of things, but...

I didn't particularly

pursue any of those.

Leon Kirchner said to

him when he was young,

"You're a phenomenal musician,

but you haven't

found your voice."

And this notion was

stuck in my dad's mind.

"What does that mean?

How do you do that?"

I think he started

looking for answers.

I'm always trying to

figure out at some level

who I am and how I

fit in the world,

which I think is something

that I share with seven

billion other people.

I was calling my mom in Damascus

before... before

you guys came in.

And she's like, "Oh, Kinan,

did you clean the place?"

I'm like, "Yes, Mom, it's okay."

- She wants to make sure...

- Moms are always moms.

No, she wants to make sure

that the CDs are not here,

because, you know, they're there and,

you know, it's like, "Is it all tidy?"

I said, "Yes, I've tried my best.

It's going to be fine."


I mean, growing up in

Damascus was great.

Just had, you know, lots

of friends and family.

I don't think of myself

as somebody who just,

you know, packed his stuff

and left, actually.

I mean, I still have a little

apartment back in Damascus.

And my parents are still there.

I miss it a lot. I do miss it.

Now I'm thinking a lot

like, "What is home?

"Is it where your friends are?

Is it where your family are?

"Is it the place

where you grew up

or is it the place that y...

where you want to die?"

I mean, you know, all the...

all these questions,

and I think now I'm

realizing that

it's basically the place where you

feel you want to contribute to

without having to justify it.

And here is your coffee,

whoever wants my

little Arabic coffee.

I mean, since I left Syria,

lots of things have changed.

There's always a fight

in each one of us

between believing in the

power of the human spirit

and dreading the power

of the human spirit.

March 2011...

when the Syrian

revolution started...

I found myself experiencing

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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