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Yo-Yo Ma Follows Musical Silk Road

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NEW YORK (AP) — ``World music'' has become an important theme in popular music. Now, cellist Yo-Yo Ma intends to make the phrase meaningful in classical music, with his new Silk Road Project.

Ma hopes to draw attention to music, musicians and composers in the countries crossed by the ancient Silk Road — a series of trade routes that ran between China and the Mediterranean from the first century B.C. to the second century A.D.

``We'll look at deep classical traditions,'' Ma told reporters Thursday. ``There will be workshops, encounters and festivals'' — the largest being the Smithsonian folklife festival in Washington in July 2002.

``My favorite part would be to see musicians in workshops get into each other's way of expression,'' Ma says. ``Once you get something like that, it is yours and you take it wherever you want it to go. You hear better; you hear more subtleties and colors.

``There will be commissions and new works. But we're not trying to invent something. We're also looking at what people are doing already and how we can make that more available.''

Ma says the aim is to allow individuals' voices to be celebrated and understood.

Along with live performances, the project will post its discoveries on the Internet.

``A musician can find something really neat for a recital program; a student can find information for a paper. The more the World Wide Web is used, the greater the chance we will get to another great time in fabulous music making,'' Ma said.

Ma already has found one piece by Franghis Ali-zadeh, who was born in Baku, Azerbaijan. ``It doesn't have harmony. The structure comes from Azerbaijani scales,'' he said. ``It's a powerful piece of music.''

Theodore Levin, author of a book about Central Asian music, heads the nonprofit Silk Road Project. Sony, which is providing some funding, hopes to record some of the music.

Ma also can be heard soon on the soundtrack of the upcoming movie ``Crouching Tiger,'' directed by Ang Lee, with music by Tan Dun.

``Ang Lee took a traditional story involving martial arts,'' Ma said. ``It's kind of an unusual film score, with a lot of traditions coming together in one moment. The composer turned it into concert music.''
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