Yo-Yo Ma on NPR’s “This I Believe”

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And this I, too, believe…

As part of All Things Considered, NPR and Jay Allison have (re-)created a “This I believe” segment, based on a 1950s radio program of the same name that was hosted by acclaimed journalist Edward R. Murrow. The purpose of the show is to ask individuals of a variety of backgrounds to write in a 500-word essay about things they believe in. Here is their own explanation about the raison d’etre of the show.

I would like to feature the “This I Believe” essay from Yo-Yo Ma, done on March 10, 2008:

Yo-Yo Ma highlights at the outset his tri-cultural background: born in Paris, parents from China and raised in America. I clearly feel some commonality in my tri-cultural upbringing: my English schooling, American parents and French wife (and company).

In his tri-cultural being, Yo-Yo Ma fuses the cultural depth and longevity of the Chinese, the deep artistic tradition of the French and the American commitment to opportunity and the future. Sharing 2 of the three same cultures, my spin is a bit different. I think of the critical thinking of the French, the resistance [and sense of humour] of the British and the entrepreneurial spirit of the Americans. And, to the extent that travel enables you to appreciate all the more what you have at home, I truly share with Yo-Yo Ma, the idea of attempting to take the best from each culture.

And at the centre of all multicultural meetings, music takes its place as a federating, if not uniting language. I think of the powerful story “Silent Night” (The Story of the WWI Christmas Truce, by Mr Stanley Weintraub – full text of the book here) where in a veritable lull in the storm, the Germans and Allied soldiers sang Christmas carols together and played a football match in no man’s land in 1914 (and in subsequent years as well). Find “Silent Night” on Amazon. As Yo-Yo Ma suggests, when strangers meet, music helps you to cross borders.

The very first quote is wonderful: “I believe in the infinite variety of human expression.” Clearly, this is the heart of diversity. And I finish by quoting Yo-Yo Ma’s last sentence: “As we struggle to find our individual voices, I believe we must look beyond the voice we’ve been assigned and find our place among the tones and timbre of human expression.” Lyrical stuff.
What do you believe in? What are the best of the cultures to which you belong?
Others who have blogged before on the Yo-Yo Ma essay:
The Opinion (right or wrong) of Lee Malatesta – A long and wide-ranging piece that covers democracy, philosophy and the impact of music…
Combating Craziness – A Czech musician’s languor for good music…

2 Comments, RSS

  1. c'est moi

    Hi Minter,

    I’ve been a bit remise in my blog reading and have been trying to catch up today. First of all, thanks for sharing this post and the links. It is a very interesting idea that you have put out there and I will take up the gauntlet that you have thrown down over this coming weekend. Let me say, too, that I can sympathize with both your feelings and those of Yo Yo Ma. I have often considered what cultural elements I have absorbed, and from where, but I have never taken the time to write about them. It should make for an interesting exercise.

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