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New Impossibilities

New Impossibilities

3.0 3
by Yo-Yo Ma, Silk Road Ensemble
Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Ensemble are on the move again, trekking to Chicago for this live-performance CD, New Impossibilities. It's the latest offering in the cellist's ambitious Silk Road Project,


Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Ensemble are on the move again, trekking to Chicago for this live-performance CD, New Impossibilities. It's the latest offering in the cellist's ambitious Silk Road Project, which aims to explore musical crosscurrents along the ancient trade route stretching from the Far East to Europe. Ma gets plenty of help in this endeavor: A thesaurus of Asian instruments, from oud to pipa to shakuhachi, join Ma's cello, producing a menagerie of colorful sounds, and the estimable Chicago Symphony Orchestra pitches in on a few tracks, too. Fittingly, the album rounds up a virtual caravan of composers, including the Lebanese Rabih Abou-Khalil, the Argentine Osvaldo Golijov, the Chinese Zhou Long and Hai-Hai Huang, the Indian Sandeep Das, and the Iranian Kayhan Kalhor. Their music ranges across the expressive map, from Abou-Khalil's whirling Arabian Waltz to the whimsical equine imitations of Huang's Galloping Horses, and from the moving lamentation of Kahlor's Silent City to the cinematic thrill of the traditional Chinese Ambush from Ten Sides. Golijov is the best-known composer represented, with a handful of major-label albums in circulation, and his Night of the Flying Horses explores the folksy Eastern European styles of doina and klezmer, starting off poignantly and winding up joyfully, while Long's Song of the Eight Unruly Tipsy Poets is no less evocative, summoning the Chicago Symphony's descriptive powers to the fullest. To get an idea of Vocussion, imagine human voices imitating a freewheeling drum circle (including the tabla, an instrument given its due in Das's Shristi). It's a playful cross-cultural fusion that, along with a "hidden track" jamboree, closes the album on a good-humored note. What better way to bring home Ma's humane message of celebrating diversity through teamwork?

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Richard S. Ginell
The peripatetic Yo-Yo Ma brought his hugely popular Silk Road Ensemble road show to Chicago for a year-long "residence" in 2006/2007. It must have been a hugely ambitious undertaking; there were something like 250 separate events related to this cross-cultural project, allied with the mighty Chicago Symphony, the Chicago Cultural Affairs Department, and the Art Institute of Chicago. This single CD, the third in Ma's Silk Road series, is a distillation of what went on, rush-released only three months after these live recordings were made. Rahih Abou-Khalil's "Arabian Waltz" opens the CD with a jazzy, East-West fusion that actually generates some swing. The fashionable poly-stylistic composer Osvaldo Golijov is represented by "Night of the Flying Horses," whose title doesn't quite come into focus until nearly the last minute. Opening with a lullaby that mourns with a Yiddish strain, the Doina takes things to an even darker place until Golijov breaks out in a manic Gallop with a bit of a boogie feeling in the bassline. "Shristi" is a percussion piece that develops some drive and life-giving fervor, while "The Silent City" adopts minimalist trance procedures as it broods about an extinguished Kurdistani village. The Chicago Symphony, led by Miguel Harth-Bedoya, comes into play only twice -- once as an asset, the second time not so fortuitously. In Zhou Long's "Song of Eight Unruly Tipsy Poets" for string quartet and orchestra, the music indeed sounds tipsy and challenging, laced with dissonances, displaying a sense of humor in the bent pizzicatos. In a Silk Road live performance in 2005, "Ambush from Ten Sides" was an explosive tone poem based upon an ancient Chinese piece of program music. But with the addition of orchestrations, it has turned into a sentimental, action-packed suite of film cues that no matter how exotic the instruments, still conjures nothing more meaningful than an in-your-face Hollywood summer pot-boiler. Indeed, a soundtrack quality has been creeping ominously into the Silk Road Project, where the tasty flavors of dozens of cultures tend to get blended into generic smoothies that go down well with the Starbucks and Borders set. But there is enough of genuine culture-clashing interest left here to keep the rest of us involved -- and there is no denying the zest that these musicians radiate when they interact. Keep the last "Vocussion" track running for a joyous unbilled encore by the whole group.

Product Details

Release Date:
Sony Classics

Related Subjects


Album Credits

Performance Credits

Yo-Yo Ma   Primary Artist,Cello
Silk Road Ensemble   Primary Artist
Wu Man   Pipa
Chicago Symphony Orchestra   Performing Ensemble
Kayhan Kalhor   Kamanche
Colin Jacobsen   Violin
Yang Wei   Pipa
Kojiro Umezaki   Shakuhachi
Nicholas Cords   Viola
Sandeep Das   Percussion,Tabla,Vocals
Shane Shanahan   Dumbek,Percussion,Vocals,Caxixi,Conch Shell,Rattles
Lin Liu   Guitar
Silk Road Ensemble   Ensemble
Joseph Gramley   Percussion,Tom-Tom,Vocals,Caxixi,Snare Drums
Jonathan Gandelsman   Violin
Daxun Zhang   Bass,Double Bass
Mark Suter   Percussion,Bongos,Vocals,Bodhran,Cajon
Dong-Won Kim   Percussion,Vocals
Miguel Harth Bedoya   Conductor
Wu Tong   Sheng,Xun
Eric Jacobsen   Cello
Qi Lin   Ensemble

Technical Credits

Rabih Abou-Khalil   Composer
David Frost   Producer
Laura Fried   Contributor
Roxanne Slimak   Art Direction
Kayhan Kalhor   Composer
Ed Sweeny   Office Coordinator
Unspecified Enemies   Composer
Christopher Willis   Engineer
Cristin Bagnall   Executive Producer
Sandeep Das   Composer
Mark Twain   Author
Laura Kszan   Editorial Production
Osvaldo Golijov   Composer
Megan Campbell   Program Coordinator
Shane Shanahan   Composer
Joseph Gramley   Composer
Laura Freid   Contributor
Isabelle Hunter   Program Director
China Magpie   Arranger
John Von Rhein   Liner Notes
Andy Russ   Producer
Li Cang Sang   Arranger
Mark Suter   Composer,Contributor
Hai-Hai Huang   Composer
Dong-Won Kim   Composer
Zhou Long   Composer
Edward P. Sweeney   Office Coordinator
Hui Li   Arranger
Lui Lin   Arranger
Xiang Gao   Arranger
Wu Tung   Arranger

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New Impossibilities 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
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