Whether you like classical music or not, Morgan Neville’s The Music of Strangers is about the interaction between human beings. Visually, it almost acts as a promotional tool for tourism. The aerial shots and architecture of various countries is encouragement to travel to faraway places. From the multicolored mosaic tiling in Iran to the beautiful architecture of Galicia, Spain, we are taken on a travelogue with pretty colors and close-ups of local flora.

Intrinsically, TMOS questions our ties beyond cultures or faiths. It deals with the notion of home. Somewhat the Manhattan Project of music, the Silk Road Ensemble was formed by cellist Yo-Yo Ma. It was an experiment to see what happens when strangers meet. As composer Tan Dun explains, the members may not “all speak English or Chinese or Persian. But [they] all speak music perfectly.”

As we follow Yo-Yo Ma’s journey to explore instruments from different countries, we are struck by his sense of humor. He narrates personal stories, but the real spotlight is on his ensemble’s key players. They too, have whimsical and at times, uplifting personalities. They share snippets of where they come from. They have been molded by their homelands, even if they no longer live there. However, home is more about their roots than in which country they were born. By exchanging ideas and communicating through music, they’ve forged real human bonds. Their music is powerful. It is a living oeuvre created by people from all walks of life. Their stories touch the heart and their melodies reach more than just our ears.

The Music of Strangers raises the question, What happens between the notes?

As musician Wu Man says, “There is no East or West. It’s just a globe.”


Special screening of The Music of Strangers at Cinema du Parc: July 29, 2016, 6:45 PM with string quartet. The film will be preceded by live music by Jean-Philippe Tremblay’s Orchestre de la Francophonie.