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When cellist Yo-Yo Ma makes a mistake while performing, he says he
often thinks about how Julia Child would react when she erred in the
kitchen: Oh, the chicken’s fallen on the floor! Yes. Oh, well,
pick it up and put it right back.
“And you know what?” he says. “Everybody’s with you.”
For Ma, musical performance is not about showcasing his technical
flourish, but rather about extending hospitality to the world. “The
greater purpose is that we’re communing together and we want this
moment to be really special for all of us,” he says. “It’s not about
proving anything. It’s about sharing something.”
While in-person concerts may not be possible right now, music still
offers a powerful way to connect. That’s why this
week we’re revisiting our 2016 conversation with Craig Minowa, who
leads the orchestral indie rock band Cloud Cult.
Minowa talks about music as medicine: When his two-year-old,
Kaidin, mysteriously died in his sleep in 2002, Craig says all he
wanted to do was play music while listening to recordings of his son.
“That was the only way that I could feel like I was with him again,
and so I did that pretty obsessively for a very long time,” he says.
“There wasn’t any intention of creating a project out of it; it was
just personal medicine.”
But once he started performing some of this music with Cloud Cult,
listeners would share their own experiences struggling with loss.
Through these interactions Minowa saw how sharing music could be
healing — not just for him personally but also for those receiving it.
“There’s something in this that they’re able to see deeper parts of
themselves, and all of that energy and power of healing and overcoming
and hope is coming out of them,” he says.
In his 2014
conversation with Krista, Ma also tells a story of the
first concert he played after September 11. In the face of the
country’s catastrophic loss, the orchestra members wondered: Do we
play or do we cancel? They decided to continue with the show as
planned. Remembering that moment, he says, “Music will be the way that
we will come together, because we’re asserting ourselves as a
community, as a people, as a city, as whatever. And we need to be
Every experience of loss is particular in its own ways, and the
loneliness of this truth can easily carry us into isolation. But both
Ma and Minowa point to a kind of healing that happens when we create
containers for everyone to lay their losses in, side by side — whether
Inside Our House” or Bach’s
Cello Suite No. 1.
Editor, The On Being Project
P.S. — Max Linsky recently spoke with Krista about the books that
sowed the seeds for On Being. Listen
to their conversation on Mailchimp’s podcast, The Books
That Changed Us.
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Week at The On Being Project
Our Latest Episode
On Being with Krista
Craig Minowa &
“Music As Medicine”
Taking in music as solace and sustenance in the best of times
and the hardest of times.
Poetry Unbound returns
Unbound is back with new episodes starting Monday,
Sept. 28. Featured poets this season include Lucille Clifton, James
Wright, Chen Chen, Natasha Trethewey, Ada Limón, Natalie Diaz, Layli
Long Soldier and more. Listen
to the trailer and subscribe on Apple
or wherever you listen.
Recommended Reading & Listening
Listen | “Welcoming
Flies at the Picnic” with Joe
The musician and Grammy-award winning producer
brings the wisdom of songwriting to life.
Listen | “No
Separation: On Music and Transcendence”
with Indigo Girls
Amy Ray and Emily Saliers are known for
their social activism onstage and off, but long before they became the
Indigo Girls, they were singing in church choirs.
Watch | Tiny
Desk (Home) Concert with Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart
Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile
Yo-Yo Ma has performed
in creative ways throughout the pandemic. This recent concert is case
Find more in our onbeing.org library on Music