“The answer to those who would kill the human spirit is to revenge with beauty,” says one of the musicians with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, as found in this inspiring documentary (2016), directed by Morgan Neville. Another musician from Tehran asks, “Does my playing the clarinet stop a bullet?” Such comments speak of an evolving form of music, never before heard or even imagined that enlivens spirit.

How did this ensemble come about? The impetus came from the Chinese-American world-acclaimed cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, and his need to distance himself from the traditional music he had mastered for decades and to plunge into the shadowy void of his unconscious in search for something new.

In 2000 Yo-Yo Ma scoured countries near the Silk Road, the ancient network of trade routes joining the East with the West, looking for one-of-a-kind musicians, composers, and artists, many of whom had been scarred from revolutions in their countries. That summer he brought these strangers with their native instruments (a pipa, a duduk, a Shakuhachi, a morimn khuur, a Mongolian horse head fiddle, and many others) to the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Massachusetts. Months of painstaking listening, of playing “natural, from the heart,” and of interweaving harmonies from differing cultures, eventually transformed them into the new sound Yo-Yo Ma sought. Their end-of-the-summer-concert evoked in inexpressible AH! from the audience.

It was the 9/11 disaster, however, that convinced the ensemble to continue working together and to share their ever-new evolving voice all over the world; it speaks of peace, of harmonious living—the antidote to the killing spirit intent upon the division and mayhem infecting the globe.