Thursday, December 3, 2009

Yo-Yo Ma on Artistic Collaboration

I discovered an interesting set of podcasts. Sony Music has something they call, "Sony Masterworks Podcasts." Included in this is a section on the recordings of cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
And in this section is a podcast titled,
"Musical Friends, Trust, & Collaboration."

In this particular podcast, Yo-Yo Ma talks about what is needed for a good musical collaboration. I transcribed a section of this. I think these remarks apply not only for music, but for any artistic collaboration.

Preconditions for great musical collaboration. Of course there's no formula for chemistry. If there were, there would be great chemistry all the time. But if you had to put approximations of what might be good chemistry between people, I think good chemistry can only occur when two people are ready for it, when people are actually open to it. If one person is closed off, and the other person is willing, you can't have a great musical collaboration. So it's a timely thing, because not everybody is open all the time; and not everybody is closed all the time, hopefully. . . But, there are certain moments when people can be open to each other and to something maybe similar or different; like-minded people--they're searching. . . Once people are open there is the willingness to share what they know--the willingness to not just own and say, "This is mine, you can't play with my toys." But, rather, "This is my toy. And you can play with it. Try this." Or, "Try that. Take it into your room. See what it does in your room." Then, there has to be enough mutual respect from both people to say, "Look, I don't really love your toy but I really like you. So maybe I'll play with your toy and then I discover that your toy is really interesting." So, you have to have some predisposition for respect, that you are willing to take a certain risk. . . [A great collaboration] has to honor the fact that two people are willing to take a certain risk, to trust each other, to be vulnerable to the other person, to have enough respect for each other as well as for yourself that you can be vulnerable and not feel that you are making a fool of yourself. . . All of those preconditions I think are important. . . . I think trust is an essential element in collaboration. . . You have to be willing to jump and have the other person catch you.

So, as pointed out by Yo-Yo Ma, these are especially important themes for a fruitful artistic collaboration (these all apply mutually to the collaborators):
  • openness
  • willingness to share
  • respect (for yourself as well as for each other)
  • willingness to take risks
  • trust
  • vulnerability
[images from the Internet Cello Society photo archive]

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