A Universal Language, Loud and Clear

The Silk Road Ensemble and the Global Musician Workshop

August 8, 2016

The following is excerpted from an Indiana Public Radio interview with Eric Edberg, a professor of cello at DePauw University who served as the faculty liaison for Silkroad’s Global Musician Workshop this June. This transcript has been condensed and edited; you can listen to the full conversation here.

GMW at DePauw

Julia Meeks, WBOI: The Music of Strangers premiered June 10, and the Global Musician Workshop took place shortly after that at DePauw. The film, the Ensemble, the Workshop, and your music department share the same message and mission roughly, which is global unity through music. Could you explain briefly what that means?

Eric Edberg: We often think that when we go to a concert, the concert is about the piece that is being played. There was a wonderful musicologist named Christopher Small who studied music all over the world, and he came up with a theory that he called musicking, that put an emphasis on music as an interactive human activity. He said that much of the meaning [of a performance] comes not only from the music that’s being played but also from the relationships that are present in the performance: relationships among the performers, between the performers and the audience, between members of the audience, and even the people who are facilitating the logistics of the event in a place like the concert hall. What we see with things like the Silk Road Project (Silkroad) — whether it’s the Silk Road Ensemble doing its performances, whether it’s the educational and other community engagement work that they do, or something like the [Global Musician] workshop — it is about the relationships between the people who are making the music.

JM: What do you do with this new way of looking, thinking, making music?

EE: I’m really fascinated now about what are ways as a musician, as someone who runs a summer festival, and also as someone who is a teacher, how do I facilitate similar experiences of bringing people from different traditions together. How can I find ways to build on this process?

One of the faculty members at the workshop, Sandeep Das, a master tabla player from India, he’s been with the Silkroad Ensemble for a long time. He said he’s been so inspired by participating in this process as a member of the Ensemble and so inspired by Yo-Yo Ma’s commitment to using music as a way to make a difference in the lives of other people that he started his own organization in India to bring musical experiences to children [with disabilities]. This wonderful loving spirit comes through in the movie too, in which several longstanding members of the Ensemble are profiled and they each talk about how, as people who are deeply committed to it and love the tradition from which they come … they are so enriched by interacting with people from other cultures and creating something new … they come together when Silkroad has its tours and recording projects and educational projects, and they are refreshed and they are renewed, and then they go back to their own musical lives so there’s this wonderful ripple effect.

One of the [Global Musician Workshop] participants said to me in a Facebook message yesterday that she thought this was the model for world peace, because you have people with these different perspectives come together and learn from each other and create something new with each other, so you have this very high-level cultural collaboration where you’re not giving up your identity, and you’re not homogenizing differences.

Last week, Silkroad brought the Global Musician Workshop to Tanglewood, leading a program for Tanglewood Music Center fellows in Lenox, MA. Read more about the Global Musician Workshop at Tanglewood here.