Betwixt the Measurable and Immeasurable with Yo-Yo

David Mermelstein gives us an interesting article on inspirational cellist Yo-Yo Ma in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal (The Ever-Curious Cellist).  Even for those of you who are unfamiliar with the virtuoso’s Bach interpretations which are chillingly good and soothing, one can not but love a man, a superstar, who goes by the name of Yo-Yo.  For me it says, I am gifted, but I do not take it all so seriously as to be a total BORE.  Of course, I am unfamiliar with Japanese culture, so for all I know, Yo-Yo might be the Japanese equivalent of Ignatius Humperdinck, but I have my doubts.

For me, curious people are the best people in the world.  I adore seekers.  Mermelstein had a cakewalk with this interviewee, because Y-squared oozes inspirational quotes:

“You spend years trying to communicate that this sound is reflective of that thought, but then there’s the question of how it’s received. My job as a performer is to make something memorable. If I do something nice but forgettable, it needn’t have happened. But if it sinks inside someone else’s brain and then they make connections, that’s something worth doing, because you’re going to intimate places in someone else’s psyche. I spend a lot of time thinking about what is the magical mix that can make the thing I love to do be so wonderful for others.”

“You go through phases,” he writes of exploring other genres of music,” You have to reinvent reasons for playing, one year’s answer might not do for another.”

Regarding his wife’s near death fall from a cliff while on safari last year,” I am a different person since then. I’m just so unbelievably grateful that she’s here . . . It affects everything – the way I live, the way I play. There are moments when the answers about who you are and what you are doing can change suddenly. Even if we don’t like change, we change anyway. There’s no real stasis. So the question is how do you change?”

“With every year of playing, you want to relax one more muscle. Why? Because the more tense you are the less you can hear. So the more you can collect that energy and be unblocked and be totally present, the more you can say, ‘I’m here because I really want to be; there’s no other place I’d rather be.’ And if you really mean it it’s not that bad.”

And want to know how Yo-Yo differs from Chuck Close?  When asked “Are you famous?” the virtuoso responds, “My mother thinks so.”

I’d say for Yo-Yo, that fame is only a means to providing the platform for which he can work, not the end-goal.

“Between the measurable and the immeasurable things, that is where I live.”


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