It’s often said that music is a universal language. But language isn’t much good unless you’re using it to have a conversation. So, how do you start one? For Mike Block, the answer is to invite musicians from different countries to the same town for one week so that they can spend time learning how to play each other’s music.
Block is a cellist, a member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project and, more recently, the director of one of Silk Road’s newer projects, the Global Musician Workshop. The goal of the Silk Road Project is to bring together musicians from all over the world so that they can collaborate on and teach multicultural music while exploring the intersection of the arts and business. And the Global Musician Workshop is like the Silk Road Ensemble – which contains an ever-changing lineup of some of the world’s most renowned instrumentalists – multiplied several times over. It’s a weeklong initiative to which musicians of any age from any country can apply. Once they’ve arrived, they take part in workshops with core members of the Silk Road Ensemble, during which they learn how to play music that originated from places like Mali, Ireland, Korea, Syria and many more.
As we move further into an increasingly globalized era, how can we use our music to have cross-cultural conversations? 21CM traveled to the Global Musician Workshop to answer this question, to listen to the kind of music these artists were making and to talk to participants about how their experiences changed them, both as people and musicians.