“I believe very strongly in working toward understanding and creativity in the cultural realm. Silk Road is not exclusive to culture, but if we can understand the workings, it can help in other ways,” he says. And that’s why he didn’t hesitate to play in Syria when the opportunity presented itself or think twice about playing with the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra.

“Accessibility is having an empathetic understanding of someone else’s world and communicating what you have to communicate. The most important thing we can do as humans and enlightened people is to be empathetic. … Things happen so quickly, like the financial market’s meltdown or climate change or swine flu. How can we live in a world without a lot more empathetic understanding? We are responsible for actions that go beyond ‘what is good for me?’ and ‘I’m not hurting anybody.’ My greatest passion is people.”

There’s a reason that music has been called the universal language -- it soothes the savage beast. Which is exactly what Yo-Yo Ma wants.