Technology & Creativity: A Look at Yo-Yo Ma

So – what if the IICA were law in 1964; would Yo-Yo Ma’s father have been able to find a tape recorder? Their Own Devices: A Virtuoso and His Technology

“The cassette tape recorder came in and that was a big thing, you know, a portable kind of device that actually might be able to record things in live situations,” he recalled backstage last month at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Mass. “I have to say that I’ve learned that so much of what makes an acoustic performer do well is how well they know the spaces that they work in.

“Now, the thing that is really hard to do, that I think may be one of the hardest things to do, is to be in one place and somewhere else at the same time, which means to be empathetic to another space other than your own. What I learned from hearing recordings from, let’s say, a mike that was placed at 20 feet versus 60 feet away is it makes the tempo sound different. It makes what you think may have been the right speed to do something – it may be wrong by the time you go 60 feet away. You can only really know that when there’s evidence. And a tape recorder actually gives you that evidence.”