Interstices are everywhere, in and around every field of expression. They can be found by diving into the margins between big obvious things. And sometimes those in between zones open up a whole new world full of complexity, texture and wonder. It was there all the time, just waiting to be uncovered and explored.
My latest interstitial delight is the unlikely confluence of legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma with a few other legends from completely different musical time zones—bluegrass fiddler extraordinaire Stuart Duncan, composer/bassist/visionary Edgar Meyer and magical mandolinist Chris Thile. The music that emerges from this coming together carries the DNA of a complex and delicious variety of musical lineages. These exquisite soundings (refreshingly) do not fit into any existing classifications. Add a crazy name, The Goat Rodeo Sessions (a phrase describing an exceptionally chaotic situation), put on a live broadcast performance for a SRO crowd at the House of Blues and you have something new and fun. With drinks in the hands of the folding chaired audience and a phalanx of camera boom arms roaming the hall to capture the performance for theaters all over America, this was no staid Symphony Hall concert. Not for these Goaters, especially since it looked like they were having as much fun as all of us.
Ma is a wonder. Unlike so many purist classical musicians whose hardening of the categories prevents them from exploring alternative musical forms, Ma just wants to make music with other gifted musicians. I remember seeing him several years ago sitting on a MIT classroom floor for a performance of proto-Romany trance music. Sometime after that he and Edgar Meyer collaborated on a new musical hybrid vein with their highly successful Appalachian Waltz and Appalachian Journey recordings. Ma’s Silk Road project went in another direction altogether and brought forth new musical forms that his fans would never have found on their own.
Watching the utter pleasure in Ma’s face reminded me how vital joy is in making, whether one’s métier is art, music, literature, theater. Visual artists don’t usually get the chance to share those rare but deeply blissful highs with others. For us those moments happen in the studio when we are alone, those exquisite breakthroughs that appear in an instant, out of the blue. But I want to remember Ma’s face, to remind myself to celebrate the pleasure and joy of making and doing.