How would you compose a Silk Road ?

by Jan Moritz Onken 5 months ago in concert

A European perspective on the Silk Road

How would you compose a Silk Road ?
(c) Callias Foundation

Do you know this kind of talk when you are in a conversation and the other person asks you ‘What’ you are — or what ‘you’ are doing?

And then you say f.e. ‘I’m a conductor’. And then the first reaction very often is:

“Oh, this is different.”

This is ok.

And then the next questions: “Ok, so where do you conduct?” And for years I mentioned places, Orchestras, Opera houses which very few people ever heard of:

Eto, Bergische Blechbläser, Tonika, Almaty, Herzen University, Bloemfontein, Uralsk, Abakhan, St. Petersburg, Dushanbe and finally the Silk Road Symphony Orchestra.

What do you think?

Does the conversation stop here very often? “Ah ok, not the Berlin Philharmonic or the Vienna Philharmonic” — ..ok somewhere behind the Moon.. Ahh ok, so have a great day.. Was good to meet you”.


To sum this up — I lived and studied in St. Petersburg, Vienna and New York — but most of the time I spent with orchestras along the Silk Road.

Do you know this feeling, when you have the impression that there could be more — that something is hidden — f.e. in the term Silk — in the idea of a ‘Road’ or ‘Europe as a Way — a Dao — on this planet’? I mean, if we take ‘Silk’ as a natural material: the first association I have: it’s natural, beautiful, very smooth — applicable to basic human qualities like gratitude, kindness or generosity. Or the term ‘road’: In my perception it has a lot to do with the idea of ‘ahead’ or ‘forward’ — something really existential like ‘way of life’ or a ‘strategic orientation’..


I’m sure each of you perfectly knows that in every situation — no matter how hard, how painful, how desperate — we choose our reaction, the way how we interpret the idea of a situation.

In 2015 I heard about the idea for a ‘New Silk Road’ in a Crater in Tanzania called the Ngoro Ngoro. And I carefully listened and in a moment of reflection came to a sudden conclusion that this term: Silk Road — ‘New’ can not belong to anyone except to the people — to you.

The term Silk Road can not be occupied — never should be monopolized but shared — be shared as a Narrative with certain confirming questions.

This was the start of my journey to re-interprete the idea ‘Silk Road’, to search for quality all over the world and it changed my life and my perception of how we can take responsibility for the terms we are using — f.e. the term ‘interpretation’ and to apply it as — I call it : #responsiblelisteners — to the idea of the Silk Road. There are those who might say that the term ‘Silk Road’ belongs to the ‘East’. I would appeal to you to take ownership to this term.

The Silk Road does not only go from East to West but also the other way around with Berlin as a starting point. Or taking the Universe as a starting point — connecting heaven and earth — or ideally connecting each other — each one of You, with your neighbor.

In 2016 I founded the Silk Road Symphony Orchestra with the Silk Road Cultural Belt as its background in Berlin — created by the sources of inspiration, #responsiblelisteners around the world shared at the so called ‘Conference of the Birds’ — the name of a great Persian source of inspiration from Farrid Uddin Attar and the name of our international audience — but even more: to find a proper name for the hidden best qualities in the other: The Conference of the Birds . The best hidden qualities in the other : our audience / orchestra / the musicians of TheSRSO.

In 2017 we performed mostly in Berlin — were looking for partners and sponsors — found basic support and learned that thanks to digital media we can reach out to Millions in about 225 countries.

What do you think? Can you expect a sudden respond from a person when you ask: How would you compose a Silk Road? Or ‘What is your idea of quality?’ Of course not. And some shared a ‘piece of silk’ for which we are really grateful because it’s something precious when you are sitting in the Metro and suddenly a ‘stranger’ from Kinshasa shares a personal source of inspiration ? I mean, isn’t that something new we can learn from as an orchestra ?

Others were honest by saying — “a Silk Road? Are you crazy? I wouldn’t have the time — it’s just not possible.” — — Prejudgement ???

Or — “..ahh Ok, they want to ‘underline’ the Silk Road with some beautiful music .. how nice .. “ Some just doubt or laugh and that motivated me even more.

On 1st April 2019 I learned about the plan for a European Silk Road by the wiiw and Mario Holzner in Vienna. This is an idea definitively worth spreading from West to East. And now imagine: If we would ask the Creative Sector along the Northern and Southern Route of the European Silk Road how they would compose , construct , imagine , create a ESR — with the confirming questions from the SRCB as a Narrative for Europe — would that be something new ? Yes, we could definitively mobilize the hidden abilities in these European communities and people even beyond Europe.

Yes, I’m sure we can — and it is necessary to keep peace and unity not only in Europe but along the Silk Road Cultural Belt as a European perspective and to learn that there is always something hidden — an ability to create, to learn more and to overcome prejudgement.

So, please join us, pick up your phone — go to the Website and share a piece of silk by asking your self: ‘What does silk mean to me?` or write me an Email at [email protected]

Thank you for your attention !

Why Silk ? Because of you.

Author: Jan Moritz Onken

Jan Moritz Onken
Jan Moritz Onken
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