Can A Self-Described ‘Venture Culturalist’ Fix The Arts?
Yo Yo Ma seems to fear nothing.
Accompany a 23-year-old “jookin dancer” Lil’ Buck to Saint-Saens’ The Swan? No problem. Join forces with Galician bagpiper Cristina Pato playing music of Osvaldo Golijov? A snap. Do improvisation with Bobby McFerrin? Well, he did confess to a bit of nervousness the first time, but only because McFerrin took his music away from him just before they took the stage. Fix the Arts? Anybody’s guess…but it won’t be for a lack of trying.
We as individuals do not live in a vacuum. Yet, on a daily basis, we segregate our cultural intake. Pop Music over here, jazz over here, country, hip hop, classical, modern dance and ballet all of these usually get their own little box. Yet, it is in collaboration that growth, innovation, and change happens.
In presenting the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy at the Kennedy Center hall, Yo Yo Ma put it well.
In ecology, where two ecosystems meet, such as the forest and the savannah, the point of intersection is the site of ‘edge effect.’
In that transition zone, because of the influence the two ecological communities have on each other, you find the greatest diversity of life, as well as the greatest number of new life forms.
One of those intersections can be seen and heard at the 45 minute mark of the above video. Yo Yo performed Levon Helm’s “Wide River to Cross” alongside a group of injured U.S. veterans from the MusiCorps program, associated with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Music and health care. The intersection of art and need. The edge effect.
I urge you to listen to his remarks and look at his example. I believe all art forms can co-exist, not just in society, but on the same stage. Yes, it’s difficult, but it can be done. In the video above, you’ll hear Ma’s remarks. At the 35 minute mark, he brings Lil Buck onstage for a breathtaking example of what can happen when we work together.
Alone, Yo Yo Ma cannot save the Arts. Together, we can make a world of difference.
Read more: Can Yo Yo Ma fix the Arts? (NPR)
Watch the original collaboration below, followed by what Lil Buck has transformed it into.