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“the music of strangers” movie review

The Music of Strangers

Boy, if there was ever a movie that came out just when it was needed most in the world, this is it.

At a time when too many people are focusing on the differences between us, The Music of Strangers shows the power of music to act as a universal language and bring us together.

In 2000, legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma invited 60 musicians from around the world to be part of the Silk Road Ensemble. Since then, they’ve recorded six albums and performed before two million people in more than 30 countries.

This wonderful documentary by Morgan Neville — who directed the equally-wonderful, Oscar-winning 20 Feet From Stardom — takes us around the globe, from Iran and Spain to China and Syria, introducing us to a variety of cultures, instruments and musicians. We feel their pride in their homeland and their desire to share it.

We also get to really know Yo-Yo Ma.

Playing since he was seven years old, Ma started to get bored and began questioning the role of art in the big picture of life.

“I’m always trying to figure out, at some level, who I am and how I fit in the world, which I think is something that I share with seven billion other people,” he says. He wonders if his work is really worthwhile since, as he laments, “music can’t stop a bullet or feed someone who’s hungry.”

Because he has spent 22 years traveling out of the 35 years he’s been married and thrown up before every trip, he realizes, “I better find a good reason why I’m doing this.”

His journey to find that reason is fascinating, culminating in the eclectic Silk Road Ensemble. It’s “like the Manhattan Project for music,” explains one musician.

Hearing the musicians’ stories is so moving. But hearing their music? That’s glorious.

“We don’t speak perfect Persian or Chinese or Spanish,” one of them admits. “But we do speak perfect music.”

And that’s why you’ll also want to buy the soundtrack.


  1. As a former second oboe in the Berkshire Symphony (a loooong time ago), this definitely sounds like a movie I need to see. My experience definitely was that playing music together bridges all sorts of chasms.

  2. This sounds wonderful on several levels.I will look for it. Thanks

  3. Making music, beautiful music, perfect music– that sounds about right to me these days. Escaping into it? Yes, please.

  4. Music is a great unifier. I def need to see this! I am a firm believer that there is more that binds us all together than pulls us apart.

  5. My late father in law taught guitar and played in a band – played guitar and keyboard. The language of music is a common music across the spectrum of humanity. My childhood best friend’s husband performs in a community chorus in Brooklyn consisting of people from many nations – I think he would love this. Sharing.

  6. This sounds like something I really need to see right now. There’s been so much ugliness in the world. Music is the language of love, friendships, and brotherhood (or sisterhood).

  7. Thanks for bringing this movie to my attention. We went to the Hollywood Bowl last week. There is nothing like listening to music under the stars!

  8. wow, music always gives me the reason to be inspired. Thanks for the new knowledge.You guys are great.

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