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Arts and Culture

Yo-Yo Ma Cello-Synced at Inauguration

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Posted on Jan 23, 2009
Perlman and Ma
AP photo / Susan Walsh

“It was wicked cold,” said cellist Yo-Yo Ma (right, accompanied by violinist Itzhak Perlman, left) of Tuesday’s inaugural ceremony in Washington, D.C.

In their defense, it was almost impossible for Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman to actually play their instruments at Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony, because of the frigid weather, but it turns out that Ma, Perlman and the other two musicians who accompanied them at Tuesday’s event were performing in sync with a recording of John Williams’ commemorative arrangement.


The New York Times:

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.

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By Joey, January 27, 2009 at 4:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

YOU get over it.  Everything about that whole “staged” deal was fake.  Not a story now, but it will be when king Obama can’t do 1/10th of what he promised.  The rest of the music thing was just about the same; not interesting, not even good.

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By behold_the_matrix, January 27, 2009 at 9:48 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Actually it was a perfectly fitting performance in the city of smoke and mirrors.

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By Zhong, January 27, 2009 at 6:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Was Obama for real?  Was he also sync’ed? This is not a good omen for Obama. If I were him I would demand an apology from these stupid musicians.  The fact that they are world class experts is no excuse.

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By Russian Paul, January 26, 2009 at 8:13 pm Link to this comment

Music performance is about connecting the performer to the listener. If the music is phony, the connection is phony. The music is then meaningless background noise and the people on stage…are merely actors.

I’m a musician, not a thespian, if someone asked me to stand on a stage and fake-play my instrument, I would refuse. Money can be a factor, but it’s not like Yoyo needs it. Any self-respecting musician would or should refuse that kind of indignity.

And I agree that this is not very relevant news - which is why it’s filed under Arts + Culture…

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By bachtenor, January 26, 2009 at 1:00 pm Link to this comment

T H I S   I S   N O T   N E W S

When I log on to Truthdig I expect a higher level of content then Fox News or People Magazine.

Why has this utterly insignificant item been on the front page of this site since last week. IT DOES NOT MATTER.

I’m a professional musician. Had it been me up there, I’d have done the same. IT’S SHOW BUSINESS, GET IT?!?

Move on.

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By vancemack, January 26, 2009 at 9:25 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie makes the best point…that they cant play in frigid cold weather is an understood by anyone that knows what it takes to tune instruments…so…

Why botha??? Why go through some dog and pony clown show to PRETEND to be playing? Thats the stupidity of that whole 170 million dollar extravaganza. And hey…how many people could have been fed and sheltered for…say…half of that amount…

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By Outraged, January 26, 2009 at 2:20 am Link to this comment

My ten year old considered this “a boring performance”.  I tried to temper his dislike of the matter, by saying, “Well, they’re really VERY GOOD.

At this he tersely responded, “Maybe that’s the problem, they’re so good… they’re BORING!

Out of the mouths of babes….....

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By progressivepam, January 25, 2009 at 11:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is standard operating procedure for huge televised events.  It’s how you get good sound.  There’s no story here.  There’s no deception.  It was a good decision.  Move on and get over it.

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By Bladerunner, January 25, 2009 at 11:17 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is not a story. Can we focus on other things. Truthdig is not FAUX NEWS.

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By 1twenty1, January 24, 2009 at 3:12 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Like the fumbled Presidential Oath, this totally invalidates Obama’s Presidency.  I demand a do over indoors.

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By William Belote, January 24, 2009 at 11:18 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

These are among the greatest musicians in the world.  Anyone with experience playing real wood and string instruments in conditions like they faced on Tuesday will have no trouble forgiving the use of a recording.  Mr. Ma said it best, “We were there to serve the moment.”  The moment was best served by having the music sound beautiful, which it did.  These musicians need not care what the uninformed may think, they have nothing to prove.

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By Anarcissie, January 24, 2009 at 10:25 am Link to this comment

No, really, there’s something truly grotesque in having musicians of the stature of Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman pretending to play their instruments while a recording is put on.  If it had been done in humor, I could see it, but apparently we were all supposed to take it seriously.  If they were going to do that, why not set up some animated dummies to saw away in time with the music?

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By bogglesthemind, January 24, 2009 at 9:56 am Link to this comment

You gives a flying fiddle?  This is all you can talk about? 

How about some more “I’m Kinda A Big Deal” T-Shirt ads.  We could sure more of those.

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By Anarcissie, January 24, 2009 at 8:57 am Link to this comment

All right, they couldn’t play, but why then the clown show?

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By Dave24, January 24, 2009 at 7:39 am Link to this comment

This isn’t a big deal.  These musicians are clearly amazing at their respective instruments, unlike the absurd references to the talentless Milli Vanilli and Ashley Simpson.

Organizers should have had them play inside the Lincoln Memorial or inside the Capital Building or something.  Ninety-nine percent of all people watching the event were doing so over TV anyway.  This would have avoided the need for a pre-recording in addition to the ridiculous banter about it currently underway.

It also would have showcased our beautiful monuments.

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By Ron N. Bykal, January 24, 2009 at 5:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

May this be the most newsworthy event of 2009.

It’s small potatoes, no matter how you spell the tasty spud.

Get over it; it ain’t even close to M. V.

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By Russian Paul, January 24, 2009 at 3:47 am Link to this comment

Olivier Messiaen performed his “Quartet for the End of Time” in a Nazi POW camp in the frigid cold!

Yoyo could have played a slower piece without the fancy finger work, but instead he opted to fake it. As a musician, if it was too cold, I just wouldn’t play, I have too much self respect to mime-play to prerecordings…

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By Victoria, January 23, 2009 at 9:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As a professional guitarist who has been asked to play outdoors in cold weather, I can attest to the fact that temperatures below 60 degrees F can make fingering complex passages very challenging. Plus, the strings and the wood of my guitar react unfavourably to the cold and make tuning very difficult.

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By CJ, January 23, 2009 at 7:40 pm Link to this comment

Thanks to venerable “Gray Lady” for the utterly irrelevant, though better than, say, Tom Friedman commenting on the Middle East.

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