Arts & Entertainment, Music

What Is Music For?

Yo-Yo Ma

Lesson time 07:09 min

Sound is energy. It sparks ideas and memories. This lesson explores the role of music and how it connects to humanity. Yo-Yo shares his philosophy and his belief that your interpretation of music is as unique as your fingerprint.

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Topics include: Music Identifies Our Humanity • Discover the "Fingerprint" of Your Expression • Starting With Our Senses • How Music Connects Us


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Music is something that connects people. Music is composed of energy, ideas, feelings, memories. It has no boundaries because it travels lightly. What do I mean by that? You hear a tune. You start singing it. It's the most remarkable thing. You like it. You're attracted to it. You sing it. It's yours. If two people can sing the same tune, and they realize they love something in common, the other person can't be all bad, because music identifies our humanity. One of the ways we survive and thrive is by using what we see and hear and feel to express ourselves. We can explain to other people how we see the world and ourselves. And we can each do it in a way that is unique. For example, every musician has a musical fingerprint, even if they're playing the same two notes. The human intention behind them is unique. Let me give you an example of something. So I'm playing one note. [MUSICAL NOTE] A lot of people can play one note. [MUSICAL NOTES] A lot of people can play two notes. But every single person that plays two notes will play those two notes, will connect them differently. [MUSICAL NOTES] That's one way of connecting. You can go-- [MUSICAL NOTES] --disconnected. [MUSICAL NOTES] You can tighten the connection. You can go-- [MUSICAL NOTES] You can make it trepidatious. You could actually-- [MUSICAL NOTES] You could surprise. You could put so much into two notes. Now you multiply that with 1,000 different notes, nobody can completely replicate something. It's like a fingerprint. You already identify who you are. What is true in music is true in all the modes of human expression. You have an expressive fingerprint, even if you're not a musician. Think about what your expressive fingerprint is and look for what makes other people's expression unique. If we think of music as our sound as what is around us, we are constantly receiving information. And at the same time, we're constantly interpreting this information. So even as I'm talking to you right now, I hear the air conditioning working. There's the sound of machinery. And if I go even deeper, I will probably hear the sound of my own heartbeat. Boom boom, boom boom. Go outside. Everywhere in the world, there are birds. Birds are not just making noise. They're communicating with one another, and they're learning their songs. But suddenly you hear a twig break. Is that an animal? Something is alerting, or my brain is alerting my conscious mind that I need to pay attention. Suddenly, I'm on alert. Communication with words, with sound, we've always had it. And that's what actually helps us survive. We mark the special moments, first date, first dance at your wedding, the music at your wedding, a memorial service. What do you want played at your funeral? When people have a special experience, often it's the music that gets them to a state of mind where they actuall...

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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