The Silk Road Project Winter 2007 Newsletter

New music springs from Silk Road Chicago

The Silk Road Ensemble and Chicago Symphony Orchestra create New Impossibilities

Sony Classical released New Impossibilities on July 31

Taking its title from Mark Twain’s description of Chicago in Life on the Mississippi, the album New Impossibilities documents the Silk Road Ensemble’s collaboration with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the city that, in the words of Yo-Yo Ma, “contains within its limits the world’s population.”

Recorded live during a series of sold-out concerts in April at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, this new collection of traditional and contemporary music reflects the cultural and artistic collaborations of the yearlong, citywide celebration of Silk Road Chicago that took place from June 2006 to June 2007.

Here the traditional Chinese pipa melody “Ambush from Ten Sides”—which the Ensemble played to kick off the opening Silk Road Chicago concert at Millennium Park last June—is reconceived as a world-premiere orchestral piece. Chicago music critic Marc Geelhoed called the piece “one of the disc’s high points…a unique fusion.”

Osvaldo Golijov’s “Night of the Flying Horses” integrates Eastern European themes and music of the Roma with Japanese and Chinese instrumentation on shakuhachi and sheng. Other selections range widely from Kayhan Kalhor’s elegy for a destroyed Kurdish town, “The Silent City,” to Zhou Long’s comic, impressionistic “Song of Eight Unruly Tipsy Poets” to “Vocussion,” an audience favorite in which Ensemble members burst into vocal percussive effects.

New Impossibilities is available through iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Sony Music Store and To hear selections, visit

Members of the Silk Road Ensemble connect Chicago musicians

An album celebrates cross-cultural collaborations between Chicago music groups

Home to living musical traditions from around the world, the Windy City inspired countless intercultural collaborations during the yearlong Silk Road Chicago celebration. In addition to performing, members of the Silk Road Ensemble led programs for local Chicago musicians. Guided by the belief that innovation serves to sustain musical traditions, Silk Road Ensemble musicians Mark Suter and Kojiro Umezaki and Artistic Coordinator Andy Russ facilitated Crossroads Exchanges, a series of partnerships between eight local musical groups, each representing a particular heritage.

The groups met two at a time between January and April to find common ground between what appeared initially to be disparate traditions, developing new works that they recorded together after two rehearsals. Indian vocalist Charushree Swaminathan collaborated with AfriCaribe, a Puerto Rican bomba group. The Chicago Korean Music Ensemble joined African-American band Motep. William “Conquering Bear” Buchholtz and Mark Cleveland, Native American flutists, teamed up with Syrian group HiJazz, and Yellow River Performing Arts, an ensemble of Chinese musicians, partnered with Sones de México.

“Without the spirit of openness and depth of musicianship offered by all the participants, this project would not have been possible,” said Suter and Umezaki.

The musicians received the resulting CD in September to commemorate their explorations; its 12 tracks present one performance by each group as well as four new collaborative works.