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The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble follows an ever changing lineup of performers drawn from the ensemble’s more than 50 instrumentalists, vocalists, composers, arrangers, visual artists, and storytellers as they gather in locations around the world, exploring the ways art can both preserve traditions and shape cultural evolution. Blending performance footage, personal interviews, and archival film, director Morgan Neville and producer Caitrin Rogers focus on the journeys of a small group of Silk Road Ensemble mainstays to create an intensely personal chronicle of passion, talent, and sacrifice. Through these moving individual stories, the filmmakers paint a vivid portrait of a bold musical experiment and a global search for the ties that bind.

The film follows the stories of Yo-Yo Ma as he reflects on the creation of the Silk Road Ensemble and the role of art and culture in forging global connections; Wu Man, a pipa player, as she travels throughout her country, China, to preserve folk music traditions; Kinan Azmeh, a Syrian clarinetist and composer who travels to Jordanian refugee camps teaching music to children living in the camp; Kayhan Kalhor, an internationally acclaimed master of the kamancheh, an Iranian bowed string instrument, who studied the musical tradition of his native Iran; and Cristina Pato, a Galician bagpiper now committed to the cultural exchange and preservation of the musical traditions of her native Galicia in the northwest corner of Spain.


Lesson 1: Yo-Yo Ma and the Intersection of Cultures (Music, Language Arts)
Lesson 2: Interpreting the Silk Road Through the Graphic Arts (Visual Arts)
Lesson 3: Everything Old Is New Again: The Chinese Cultural Revolution and Its Legacy (History, Social Studies, Language Arts)
Lesson 4: The Ongoing Syrian Conflict and Humanitarian Crisis (History/Social Studies, Language Arts and Literacy,Music, Visual Arts)
Lesson 5: The Iranian Revolution (History/Social Studies, Music)
Lesson 6: Preserving Culture in a Globalized World (History/Social Studies, Music)
Lesson 7: Ancient Instruments, New Music (Music)
Lesson 8: Viewing a Documentary Film: Developing Film Literacy (Film Literacy, English Language Arts)


The Music of Strangers - Curriculum Guide