Video produced by Anne Davenport.
Yo-Yo Ma began dazzling audiences when he was five. Now, his new album “Songs from the Arc of Life,” which came out just before his 60th birthday, focuses on the ups and downs of the human experience.
Chief arts and culture correspondent Jeffrey Brown recently visited Ma at a recording studio in New York. The cellist told him the album, which he recorded with his longtime collaborator pianist Kathryn Stott, follows the way a person’s relationship to music changes with age.
“What do people remember from their childhood, music from their childhood, from first dance all the way through?” he said. “We went through a selection process to think [about], what do people go through when they are teenagers, or what do they go through when they’re in, you know, adolescence, or middle age, or late age.”
“Songs From The Arc Of Life” is full of familiar favorites like “Brahms’ Lullaby,” “The Swan” by Camille Saint-Saëns and the Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” Ma performed “The Swan” for the NewsHour (above).
Messiaen wrote the piece as a prisoner-of-war during World War II, Ma said. “I included that piece particularly because I think the human spirit is incredible. It has the ability to transcend the worst moments,” he said.
The piece expresses “infinite love. The glories of the universe,” he said. “And that, to me, is something that we all need as humans. That ability to manufacture, to create hope in the depths of despair, because we all go through terrible moments in our lives, and those are the moments when we have to go deep in the reservoir, and find something that comes out, and can give us comfort.”
Ma — who is known for leaning back, closing his eyes and often smiling while playing — said for him, music is its own method of communication. “The sounds can actually be the gateway … into the hearts and mind of somebody else,” he said. “It could be a language. I love that language — it’s so beautiful.”
Watch the NewsHour tonight for the full report.