At a Glance
For nearly 2,000 years (ending in the 14th century), the historical Silk Road—a series of land and sea trade routes—crisscrossed Eurasia and enabled the exchange of goods and innovations from Japan to the Mediterranean Sea.
Over the centuries, many important scientific and technological innovations migrated to the West along the Silk Road, including the magnetic compass, the printing press, silk, gunpowder, mathematics, and ceramic and lacquer crafts. In this way, the Silk Road created an intercontinental think tank of human ingenuity. Interactions among cultural groups spread knowledge, religious beliefs, artistic techniques, and musical traditions, so much so that long after its decline, the Silk Road remains a powerful metaphor for cultural exchange.
This historic trade network provides a namesake-worthy metaphor for the Silk Road Project's vision of connecting artists and audiences around the world. Yo-Yo Ma has called these routes, which resulted in the first global exchange of scientific and cultural traditions, the "internet of antiquity."
Both historic and symbolic elements are central to the work of the Silk Road Project, which takes inspiration from this age-old tradition of learning from other cultures and disciplines. The repertoire of the Silk Road Ensemble includes traditional music (both as an oral tradition passed down from generation to generation and as melodies arranged by and for members of the ensemble) as well as newly commissioned works, many of which combine non-Western and Western instruments, creating a unique genre that transcends customary musical classification.