SKF NOTE: I remember him by first name only: Bruce. An airline steward by trade, Bruce was a drummer/percussionist at heart. Somehow Bruce and I connected when I was at Modern Drummer magazine, once in person, and a few times by phone. What I remember most about Bruce was that his work took him to countries around the globe. And he loved bringing percussion instruments from one country and giving them to percussionists in another country.
Of course, the percussionists receiving Bruce’s gifts had no familiarity with — let alone formal training — the percussion instruments from foreign lands.
That was precisely Bruce’s point. He wanted to see how, say, drummers in Cuba would use unfamiliar Chinese percussion instruments. And vice versa.
Carrying his quest one step further, when Bruce’s work cycle took him back to, say, Cuba, Bruce would tape record the Cuban drummers using the Chinese percussion instruments. When Bruce returned to China, he would play for his Chinese percussion friends the tapes of how Cuban drummers were using Chinese percussion instruments.
Late last night I was reminded of Bruce’s international percussion swap meet when I came across the trailer for a new documentary on Yo Yo Ma‘s Silk Road Ensemble: The Music of Strangers. Yo Yo Ma has been creating musical alchemy for a long time. I enjoy listening to most of the music from Ma’s collaborations with Edgar Meyer, Bela Fleck, Mark O’Connor, various Brazilian and Argentinian musicians.
And I enjoy the whole spirit of Yo Yo Ma’s musical pioneering.
- Can a piece of music stop a bullet?
- During the Cultural Revolution my parents asked me to learn music to escape.
- By trying to kill the human spirit, the answer of the human spirit is to revenge with beauty.
These statements heard in this documentary from Silk Road Ensemble musicians are reminders of how precious is our American birthright of freedom. Based on the many Americans who are so willing to give up their birthright, I’d say for that reason alone, The Music of Strangers documentary comes at a perfect time.
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