Inauguration Scandal: Music Not Live
Taking a page from the Communist Chinese Olympics, the Obama inauguration featured truthy music. Daniel Wakin blows the doors off this travesty in a NYT exclusive:
The somber, elegiac tones before President Obama’s oath of office at the inauguration on Tuesday came from the instruments of Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and two colleagues. But what the millions on the Mall and watching on television heard was in fact a recording, made two days earlier by the quartet and matched tone for tone by the musicians playing along.
The players and the inauguration organizing committee said the arrangement was necessary because of the extreme cold and wind during Tuesday’s ceremony. The conditions raised the possibility of broken piano strings, cracked instruments and wacky intonation minutes before the president’s swearing in (which had problems of its own).
“Truly, weather just made it impossible,” Carole Florman, a spokeswoman for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, said on Thursday. “No one’s trying to fool anybody. This isn’t a matter of Milli Vanilli,” Ms. Florman added, referring to the pop band that was stripped of a 1989 Grammy because the duo did not sing on their album and lip-synched in concerts.
Ms. Florman said that the use of a recording was not disclosed beforehand but that the NBC producers handling the television pool were told of its likelihood the day before.
The network said it sent a note to pool members saying that the use of recordings in the musical numbers was possible. Inaugural musical performances are routinely recorded ahead of time for just such an eventuality, Ms. Florman said. The Marine Band and choruses, which performed throughout the ceremony, did not use a recording, she said.
“It’s not something we would announce, but it’s not something we would try to hide,” Ms. Florman said. “Frankly, it would never have occurred to me to announce it. The fact they were forced to perform to tape because of the weather did not seem relevant, nor would we want to draw attention away from what we believed the news is, that we were having a peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next.”
While rather amusing, it’s hard to get too excited about this. Yes, it’s lame to have world famous musicians pretend to play their instruments when the sound is being piped in. But what were they supposed to do, really? I was downstairs working until just before the swearing in but my wife mentioned that the TV people reported that Yo Yo Ma had to use a substitute instrument, because his normal cello was too delicate for the weather.
I will note, however, that the Marine band sucked it up and played despite the cold.