Thursday, January 22, 2009

Faking the Inaugural Music

I didn't have a chance to watch the presidential inaugural live, as I was driving into Portland for an appointment that morning. But I heard the Yo-Yo Ma/Itzhak Perlman instrumental, called "Air and Simple Gifts," on the radio and it was quite moving. Later my mother, who was in town and who watched it live, called it the highlight of the ceremony.

And now we learn that it was faked. Recorded beforehand. The musicians were just playing along for show.

In this NY Times article they have a dozen reasons why that was OK. It was too cold. Strings might have broken. It was windy.

God forbid actual nature should be any part of the ceremony, that it should alter the perfect plan.
Mr. Perlman said the recording, which was made on Sunday at the Marine Barracks in Washington, was used as a last resort. “It would have been a disaster if we had done it any other way,” he said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “This occasion’s got to be perfect. You can’t have any slip-ups.” The musicians wore earpieces to hear the playback.
In fact, the occasion did not have to be perfect. Nothing ever is. Obama's recitation of the constitutional oath wasn't perfect, and he did a do-over, and so what -- it adds to the charm and memory of the situation. Had their performance been affected by the weather, history would have noted their brave attempts to do their best in trying circumstances. Had their performance overcome the weather, they would be heroes.

Now, they just look a little like cretins.

Like my note yesterday about the inaugural field trip for some California teenagers, let's try and drop the notion that life is supposed to be perfect. It was never intended to be so, and it never will be, no matter how hard anyone tries. In the cracks between perfection, we find our great moments and our weak moments, and, most of all, the real moments. They are clunky and smelly and awkward and funny, but they are genuine. Is that what this is all supposed to be about?

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