Driven to Play

Mike Block on Working with Musicians from Another Tradition

June 30, 2016

Earlier this month, musicians from 20 countries joined us for our second annual Global Musician Workshop (GMW). GMW Director and Silkroad Ensemble cellist Mike Block spoke to participants about why playing with musicians from other cultures is meaningful to him:

“As I’ve gone through my career, I’m often driven by the opportunity to play music with people from other cultures. I find that, not surprisingly, one of the most satisfying things to do. And I think the reason I like doing that is because, in a string quartet, I know how to be a good string quartet cellist, and I know what’s required. And I actually wouldn’t even need to look at the other musicians in the group, or even know their names, in order to play a Beethoven quartet well.

What I love about performing with Sandeep, or Balla, or Hadi, or any musician that comes from a different background is that there’s no expectation for my instrument, and there’s no pre-defined role for our instruments to interact, so we have no choice but to interact as individuals and people. And ironically when we’re working with musicians from a different style, it can end up being very superficial, like, “Oh, we’re just going to play whatever our common scale is.” But I think there’s possibility to go extra deep, and play more personally and more intimately with musicians from other styles, especially when you’re creating stuff together, because you have no choice but to be yourself and be in the moment.”