Skip to Content
Seen on campus

Why culture matters

Yo-Yo Ma plays Bach in Kresge—and explains how culture spurs innovation.
April 25, 2018
Jake Belcher

Yo-Yo Ma is worried. the ties that bind us to each other are fraying, the future of the planet is in question, and intellectual certainty too often replaces curiosity as people converse only with those who agree with them. But he’s convinced that culture—shared stories, music, and art that help us understand our environment and each other—can help. As he told the audience that packed into Kresge to hear his Compton Lecture in March, culture helps the “edges” of society communicate with its “center,” giving rise to innovation both in music and in the lab. The renowned cellist advocated what he called intentional oscillation between the two sources of ideas, urging those in the mainstream to remain open to unconventional thought from the margins of their fields. He also stressed how important it is to access both analytic and empathic thinking. After proclaiming Bach a master of both—and of exploring the edges and reporting back to the center—he demonstrated the claim on his cello. Ma said he plans to perform Bach on all six continents, in places including those torn by conflict, to shine a light on people working to use culture to solve the world’s problems. “And it will be fun!” he said.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

This startup wants to copy you into an embryo for organ harvesting

With plans to create realistic synthetic embryos, grown in jars, Renewal Bio is on a journey to the horizon of science and ethics.

VR is as good as psychedelics at helping people reach transcendence

On key metrics, a VR experience elicited a response indistinguishable from subjects who took medium doses of LSD or magic mushrooms.

This nanoparticle could be the key to a universal covid vaccine

Ending the covid pandemic might well require a vaccine that protects against any new strains. Researchers may have found a strategy that will work.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.