Friday, January 23, 2009

This is no time for illusions

Yeah, it's a minor deception, but it still feels like a letdown. Turns out that beautiful inaugural piece "Air and Simple Gifts" was not really being performed in the cold sunshine of D.C. It had been recorded two days before, so some of the best musicians in the world could finger-synch along.

And yeah, there were a lot of good reasons for that: the New York Times points out "the possibility of broken piano strings, cracked instruments and wacky intonation" at a time when everything had to be perfect. But under that logic, maybe Obama and Justice Roberts should have taped the swearing-in part in advance too. After all, it also had to be perfect. And it wasn't.

“No one’s trying to fool anybody," the woman in charge of the ceremonies said. But that's not quite right, is it? The entire point of a fake performance is to deceive, to create the illusion that here is a talent and a time too great to succumb to circumstance. In the case of Ashlee Simpson, we can understand why technical help is essential. During the Beijing Olympics -- well, it's the Chinese, who have little faith in the genuine. In the case of Obama's inauguration, I was sort of hoping for the real thing.

If it's too cold to play the cello, then just play the damned recording. Don't trot out the artists and make them go through the motions. It's a new day in America, right? I think we can handle the truth.

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