Yo-Yo Ma at Inauguration Taped, Not Live

By | January 24, 2009

Millions of viewers heard a recording of the dulcet tones played by a celebrated quartet of musicians at Barack Obama’s inauguration rather than the notes the group actually played for the new president. (Jan. 23)

They still recorded the music themselves and it sounded great. Unless you are right there, you are not hearing the acoustic version of them really playing even if it is live. I’ve seen Yo-Yo Ma live and, trust me, he doesn’t need to fake anything. None of these guys do. But you can’t change the laws of physics: Cold makes instruments go out of tune and it can make strings break.

Itzhak Perlman, left, Gabriela Montero and Yo-Yo Ma, with Anthony McGill, not pictured, performed a new piece composed by John Williams at the inauguration ceremony Tuesday.

Comments I agree with:

…This is so not a surprise! It was freezing out there. Wood expands and contracts with the elements. Shall we say popping strings. We are in the 21st century and because of technology had a beautiful inauguration in spite of the weather.

…Yeah, I thought the sound quality was a little too good to be completely outdoors. (Also I’m surprised Perlman would bring his Stradivarius out in that temperature.)

string instruments, and especially those of the quality that those people play, are worth sometimes millions of doillars and would never be played out in cold air. Beyond the fact that it would be poor sound at best, it would destroy them.

Wooden string instruments such as … cellos and violins do not fare very well in cold weather. I’m surprised Ma and Perlman even agreed to bring their priceless instruments outside in such weather–there’s a huge risk that they can crack. It’s happened to my cello more than once and its a costly repair. – ph

NYT Article:

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. … – nyt

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