Though I consider myself a fan (admittedly, a fledgling one) of classical music, I must admit that I have had a weird tendency to totally avoid the works of one of the most popular modern classical artists, Yo Yo Ma. Maybe it’s me being stubborn and not wanting to even try listening to someone I think of as “popular” and “modern” classical when I should be listening to artists such as Itzhak Perlman or Glenn Gould. That’s doubtful, though, as I have no problem listening to Anne-Sophie Mutter.
I think it was just me wanting to be able to think that I was, in my own small way, a classical music snob about this one artist. Maybe then people would be convinced that I knew what I was talking about in the genre when I obviously don’t.
This all changed, though – my attitude about Ma and the thought that I knew what the hell I was talking about whenever speaking about what classical music could be and actually was – the moment I pressed play on The Goat Rodeo Sessions LIVE DVD.
The DVD was a live performance and celebration of a 2011 collaborative album by Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile. It was, in fact, a performance streamed in real time to movie theaters in the United States that was eventually edited down into a PBS broadcast of Ma, Meyer, Thile, Duncan, and Aoife O’Donovan (co-writer of “Here and Heaven”).
Oh. It was also their first public concert together. Ever.
Held at the House of Blues in Boston, the performances showcased in this DVD featured many songs from the album but also Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Gamba Sonata No. 1 Movement 4,” “Fiddle Medley” and “All Through the Night”
Now, if you’re looking for a technical breakdown review of this album, this is certainly not going to be what you were looking for. Other than how the music itself made me feel I have no clue as to whether or not someone with more experience listening to and judging classical music would be able to tell you exactly what it is about this DVD and performances it contains that makes it so GOOD..
No. That’s not me. I just know that the album makes me smile every time I put it on and this DVD makes me smile even more than that when I watch it.
The music and performances are not strictly classical music, you see. I think if this were just a serious performance piece of people searching for yet another take on songs and notes originally written down hundreds of years ago, I wouldn’t care.
The Goat Rodeo Sessions LIVE are something other than classical. Not less, mind you, just other. Ma and the wonderful folk and bluegrass artists such as Duncan, Meyer and Thile just wow you. Instead of feeling like classical is mixed or watered down with the home-spun “picking” talents of these other musicians, this release transforms and breaks down the ideas I had of what certain genres of music did or did not sound like.
Look. I am a small town Louisiana boy that has grown up to live in an even smaller town in Arkansas. I am a fan of zydeco, country music before the 1990s, folk and blues music, and like to pretend that I am more sophisticated than I truly am because I happen to think that the handful of symphonies I have listened to and love make me seem bigger than the dirt roads I come from…
Ma and his compatriots, however, on this DVD show me that there is no damned reason why good music cannot exist in any town, big or small. This music just dances in my ears as I see the absolute joy on their faces as they play and create it.
This DVD sounds like it could have been these gentlemen sitting down on the very dirt road my parents grew up on. It’s earthy, wonderful and it has caused me to reassess my own attitudes towards the artists I arbitrarily dismiss.
Buy the DVD. Buy the album that the DVD performance comes from. While you’re doing that, I’ll be buying more music from Yo Yo Ma and kicking myself for missing out on the soulful and wondrous sounds this man seems capable of plucking from the strings of his instrument.