When you're lucky enough to have cellist Yo-Yo Ma and members of the Silk Road Ensemble, some of the world's premiere instrumentalists and composers, gather for an afternoon of offstage music making, you've got to think long and hard about where to put them. And we decided that the perfect match would be ACME Studio, a theatrical props warehouse in Brooklyn.
Over the years, we've been lucky enough to see, hear and get to know many of the Silk Road musicians in other settings. You may recognize several of them from Tiny Desk Concerts and other collaborations with NPR Music — including members of Brooklyn Rider, Chinese pipa virtuoso Wu Man, Iranian kamancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor, Spanish bagpiper Cristina Pato, American percussionist Shane Shanahan and clarinetist Kinan Azmeh from Syria.
As we've had the opportunity to forge those bonds over time, we've gotten to know the warm, generous-spirited personalities that come along with these immense talents. We thought that setting them loose in a props house, where they could pick and choose among the curiosities for little elements to bring into the camera frame, would bring those aspects of their personalities into sharper focus. What we wound up with was a magical afternoon of play in all senses of the word — not just having the chance to record these virtuosos and their instruments in a spirited performance of John Zorn's Briel, here arranged by Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, but also to capture them (and us) having an immense amount of fun.
(And, if you can't get enough, there's a bonus video featuring a quartet of Silk Road percussionists creating deep, and irresistible, grooves.)
Producers: Mito Habe-Evans, Anastasia Tsioulcas; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Saidah Blount, Nathan Fitch, Mito Habe-Evans, Becky Harlan, A.J. Wilhelm; Event Coordinator: Saidah Blount; Special Thanks: ACME Studio; Executive Producer: Anya Grundmann