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Exclusive Music Video: The Knights' 'Ascending Bird,' Featuring Yo-Yo Ma

03.20.17
The Knights
WQXR

By James Bennett, II

Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov’s cello concerto Azul was first commissioned for Yo-Yo Ma by the Boston Symphony, and received its premiere in 2006. Now, over 10 years later, Azul is seeing its first studio release. It’s the centerpiece of Brooklyn-based orchestral collective The Knights' project of the same name, set to be released on March 31.

Colin Jacobsen, who leads The Knights alongside his brother Eric, is a touring member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. In the liner notes for the new album, Colin recounts a 2004 trip to Iran, the home of his fellow Silk Road musicians Siamak Aghaei and Kayhan Kalhor. He immersed himself in Iran’s rich cultural heritage, learning from and listening to his friends at length. Siamek, who Colin writes “evokes a modern-day Bartok,” shared one of his field recordings that featured a small instrument made from the bones of a bird. The music that came from it was connected to an old myth that concerned a bird trying to fly towards the sun. Its first attempts were failures; it wasn’t until the bird shed its physical shell that it could transcend earthly limitations. Inspired, Colin wrote Ascending Bird for string quartet. Now, he is unveiling a full orchestral arrangement of the piece, to be included on the forthcoming album.

Watch Ascending Bird in full, as performed by The Knights featuring Yo-Yo Ma.