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Reviewed by - Matt Rowe

Yo-Yo Ma
The Silk Road Ensemble
New impossibilities

The Silk Road Project has been in existence for almost 10 years.  Founded by world-renown cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, as a means to further cultural understanding and learning, it has resulted in several excellent Silk Road recordings.  Historically, the Silk Road was a trade route between Europe and Asia and has musically been explored by not only Yo-Yo Ma but also multi-instrumentalist Kitaro in his own series of elegant and beautifully expressed albums that include multiple volumes of his own Silk Road series along with companion albums like Astral Voyage, Silver Cloud, and the entrancing India.

For this leg of the Project’s journey, Yo-Yo Ma began a series of events in Chicago to further his vision of understanding that includes efforts with various official agencies from June of 2006 through June of 2007.  This included exhibitions, readings, concerts, films, dance performances, and various other educational showcases.  It became inevitable that the musical concert experiences would be made available to fans in a broader attempt to capture those unable to attend such a cultural exploration in a distant city.

In this latest release by Yo-Yo Ma, he partners with The Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  The music that makes up New Impossibilites is a result of 250 performances over the year’s timeframe and which included several free performances at Chicago’s Millennium Park – the event’s opener and closer shows.  The album itself contains 8 live tracks, the longest a 22-plus minutes rendition of “The Silent City,” and the shortest being an under 2-minute performance of “Galloping Horses.”

All of the pieces are musical stories with their sounds uniquely based in its origin.  “Shristi” is an India work that relies on percussion to tell the story of the creation of the universe by Shiva.  “The Silent City” is a percussion and strings piece that is Iraqi and tells the story of the destruction of the town, Halabja.  The album ends with the short percussion and vocal percussion work that weave the vocals of 5 individuals into a clever piece named “Vocussion.”

Anyone familiar with Yo-Yo Ma already knows the intimacies and ingenuity of his work.  His attention to details of a composition is exquisite and important, particularly when it has affiliation with his Silk Road endeavors.  The compositions on New Impossibilities are excellent choices, brilliantly showcased by the musical expertise of Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Ensembles.  It deservedly joins a series of proud Silk Road Ensemble recordings.

The history of The Silk Road is deep.  The music is rich and descriptive, as entrancing as it is hypnotic.  New Impossibilities takes composed pieces from various personas and creates a tapestry of evocative music designed to bathe the listener in a flow of ancient history and culture.

Release Date: July 31, 2007
Produced by: Yo-Yo Ma

Track Listing:

Arabian Waltz / Night of the Flying Horses / Galloping Horses / Song of Eight Unruly Tipsy Poets / Shristi / The Silent City / Ambush From Ten Sides / Vocussion.

Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble:

Yo-Yo Ma - Cello
The Silk Road Ensemble
Chicago Symphony Orchestra - Miguel Harth-Bedoya - Conductor

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