Image of two pairs of hands playing the guitar


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 together.”

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 that’s “Ghost Inside Our House” or Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1.

Kristin Lin
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.


This Week at The On Being Project

Our Latest Episode

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On Being with Krista Tippett
Craig Minowa & Cloud Cult
Music As Medicine

Taking in music as solace and sustenance in the best of times and the hardest of times.

Listen on:
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Poetry Unbound returns

Poetry 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 Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Overcast, or wherever you listen.

Recommended Reading & Listening

Recommended reading image collage: image of a cello in a field;

image of the Indigo Girls; image of Joe Henry

Listen | “Welcoming Flies at the Picnic” with Joe Henry
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 in point.

Find more in our library on Music & Musicians.

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