Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

  • Jake Belcher
  • Why culture matters

    Yo-Yo Ma plays Bach in Kresge—and explains how culture spurs innovation.

    • April 25, 2018

    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.

    Next in MIT News
    Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to MIT Technology Review.
    • Print + All Access Digital {! insider.prices.print_digital !}* Best Value

      {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

      The best of MIT Technology Review in print and online, plus unlimited access to our online archive, an ad-free web experience, discounts to MIT Technology Review events, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

      See details+

      12-month subscription

      Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

      6 bi-monthly issues of print + digital magazine

      10% discount to MIT Technology Review events

      Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

      Ad-free website experience

      The Download: newsletter delivered daily

    • All Access Digital {! insider.prices.digital !}*

      {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

      The digital magazine, plus unlimited site access, our online archive, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

      See details+

      12-month subscription

      Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

      Digital magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

      Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

      The Download: newsletter delivered daily

    • Print Subscription {! insider.prices.print_only !}*

      {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

      Six print issues per year plus The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

      See details+

      12-month subscription

      Print magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

      The Download: newsletter delivered daily

    /3
    You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.

    MIT News = for alumni only.

    Are you an MIT alum?
    Sign in now to read all MIT alumni news and class notes— or to manage your magazine subscription.

    Sign in and read on