News / USA

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma Joins 'Goat Rodeo'

Famed musician teams with bluegrass and other luminaries

Multimedia

Audio

Most classical music lovers know cellist Yo-Yo Ma as one of the world’s greatest classical virtuosos. But what happens when this unique mega-star teams up with luminaries from bluegrass and other genres in a rural setting, with no agenda other than to have fun and see what kind of musical magic they can make?

(Video courtesy Sony Masterworks)

You just might get their runaway hit “The Goat Rodeo Sessions.”

That’s the title track from “The Goat Rodeo Sessions,” a CD featuring Yo-Yo Ma on cello; Chris Thile, the mandolin virtuoso from the Punch Brothers bluegrass band; Edgar Meyer on the classical bass; and the famed fiddler Stuart Duncan. All four are stars in their own right.

Goat Rodeo refers to something where 100 things have to go absolutely right, or it all goes terribly wrong. It captures the spirit of this experiment.

Getting these overly-scheduled musicians in the same place to record for a week was a feat in itself. But they also came together without knowing what the outcome would be.

Most of the music on the album hadn’t been written yet. What these four friends did have, they say, was creativity, an openness to where the moment might lead, and mischievous good humor.

"You know, what’s nice is that every time we get together we seem to start to get sillier and start to feed off each other’s energies and then in between serious stuff gets done," Ma says.

Thile agrees. "I think levity is essential toward establishing intimacy and trust. There is a lot at stake in a situation like this, a musical process. There is a lot riding on us doing a good job."

"I find that I play better right after someone has said something so clever," says Meyer, "it’s all I can do not to burst out laughing."

A hint of that levity is apparent in “Where’s My Bow,” one of the cuts on the CD.

Their studio was nestled in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts, next door to the home of Yo-Yo Ma’s friend and sometime collaborator, James Taylor. The singer/songwriter fashioned a state-of-the-art facility in an old wooden barn on his property.  

"There was a little bit of anxiety attached to that of thinking about one of the world’s greatest guitarists down in his shop with a power saw and a hammer," Duncan says.

The music itself is varied. There is more than a hint of bluegrass, funk and jazz in “Quarter Chicken Dark.”

Ma concedes that all three genres are far from his home turf in the classical world. But he relished exploring new musical terrain with his buddies. “It’s that kind of feeling where I know I am going to be taken care of and I will do my best. But they will more than meet me halfway.”

Sometimes the music seems steeped in specific genres, yet transcends them. For stars accustomed to being in control of their studio sessions, collaborating as equals was a challenge at first. But Thile says things eventually fell into place.

"We’d gotten our bearings and we started to get more comfortable with the kind of writing I like which is just sitting there with a group of people and talking about what you want to hear that you are not hearing yet."

It appears to have worked. "The Goat Rodeo Sessions” is topping the charts.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs