The Silk Road Ensemble, originally developed at Tanglewood by Yo-Yo Ma, is now ten years old. The group’s latest effort, Off the Map, encompasses myriad musical flavors that hail from beyond the ancient Silk Road trade routes.
The SRE has always emphasized the collaboration of Western and non-Western artists, expanding what counts as “classical music” for open-minded listeners. Gabriela Lena Frank combines two traditional Chinese instruments, pipa and sheng, with a standard string quartet for a South American-inspired piece, Ritmos Anchinos. Evan Ziporyn, known for his interest in Indonesian music, features Indian tabla master Sandeep Das in Sulvasutra, a work also employing string quartet and pipa. The main voice in Angel Lam’s Empty Mountain, Spirit Rain is the Japanese shakuhachi.
“Wah Habbibi,” the opening movement of Air to Air by Osvaldo Golijov, highlights Cristina Pato’s Galician bagpipe; it’s followed by the sublime “Aiini Taqtiru” (“My Eyes Weep”), derived from the Arab-Christian Good Friday service. Next, the dreamlike “Ritual for the Holy Mother of Guadalupe” incorporates a Mexican field recording borrowed from the Nonesuch Explorer Series. The suite ends with the jubilant, percussive “Walls Are Encircling the Land.”
The sound can only be described as “audiophile-quality”—vivid, floating free from your loudspeakers.