Arts & Entertainment, Music

Making Your Head, Heart, and Hands Work Together

Yo-Yo Ma

Lesson time 17:21 min

This lesson highlights how our senses are connected to our creative imaginations and their essential role in our ability to express ourselves. Both Titi and Ethan perform “The Swan” and discuss their emotional imagination.

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Topics include: Ethan Plays "The Swan"


- I deeply believe that you can actually exercise imagination the way that we can exercise our physical being. I hypothesize that we can develop exercise and expand our imagination. But how do we do that? If you daydream, then you're in some way using your imagination in your subconscious. We use our imagination by using all of our senses and by actually using little pieces of reality that we recall from our experience and from our memory. And if you exercise that a lot, you can not only expand your imagination, but you start to apply it to other people, to other places. By the knowledge that you accumulate, you could say, maybe what if. That's the basis of invention, of innovation, and of creativity. [MUSIC PLAYING] When our heads are fully engaged, our hearts are full and our hands busy, it's very hard for negative thinking to penetrate. Making your head, heart, and hands work together is the best antidote that I know to worry, fear, and depression. Titi, Ethan, and I are going to explore how to make head, heart, and hands work together in a creative exercise where we will transform our imagination, our head and heart directly into creative expression. In this case, through our hands and instruments. We will be using a piece called "The Swan" by Camille Saint-Saens with the help of pianist Solon Gordon. And we're going to actually use that piece to see how well they can conjure up the image of a living bird in motion or in stillness. And we'll also explore what they think, how they do it, and how we receive it. [MUSIC - CAMILLE SAINT-SAENS, "THE SWAN"] Beautiful. Thank you. That was a beautiful swan. - Thank you. - You express music beautifully on the cello. You're also very visual. How much of the visual enters into your mind when you're playing? - Quite a bit. I actually, when I'm learning a piece, I love to write inspirational words that spark images in my head at the top of the page. And then while I'm playing, when I feel especially free, I am-- I'm painting pictures all the time in my head. - Aha. - Like it could be the swan's wings. It could be a larger picture of it gliding across a park, pond. - What were you thinking just now? - I was thinking of the details of the swan itself. The nuance in the feathers and how it catches the light. And also, I mean, I'm not sure exactly what swans feel emotionally. But I was feeling a little bit of the story of the swan and how it tries to fly and find its way. - Did you imagine any of this in both the cello part and also in Solon's part? - Absolutely. The piano is-- - Yeah, what are you looking for in the piano? - I mean, it's the glistening of the water, the sound of the water. It's what carries the swan. - And Solon, what were you thinking about? SOLON GORDON: I'm also picturing water when I'm playing this, and I think I'm trying to think about the way that-- even though this part co...

About the Instructor

Likely the world’s most recognizable cellist, Yo-Yo Ma has spent more than 60 years creating meaning through music. Now, the 18-time Grammy Award winner is sharing that experience with you. Whether or not you play an instrument, explore Yo-Yo Ma’s philosophy for embracing music’s emotional power, expand your self-expression and creativity, and develop a deeper appreciation for music’s ability to connect people and culture.

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Yo-Yo Ma

World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma teaches you how music can be a source of meaning, connection, imagination, and understanding.

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