The Milli Vanilli Inauguration
posted at 7:50 am on January 23, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
Can this inauguration get any more embarrassing? First, our Chief Justice flubs the oath of office — the entire reason for the event — and then the President delivers a downer speech that even his adoring throngs can’t cheer. Now it turns out that the musicians pulled a Milli Vanilli and synchronized themselves to recorded music:
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 of its lip-synching, making it synonymous with the practice.
Well, if it’s not Milli Vanilli, it’s at least Ashlee Simpson. Either way, they faked a live performance. No one doubts that Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma can perform the piece, but it shouldn’t have been presented as a live performance if it wasn’t. It’s dishonest. Doesn’t anyone on the CCIC know that, or does the word Congressional automatically disable that knowledge?
That brings us to another question about the music. If they were going to finger-synch to music, why not pick something a little more upbeat? “Somber and elegiac” belongs at events like funerals, not celebrations like inaugurations.
Update: We should note that the Marine Corps band played live, and the choir sang live as well. If the weather didn’t allow for certainty with stringed instruments, then the CCIC should have just stuck with the Marines.
Also, I find it interesting that NBC knew about the synching and didn’t bother to report it to their viewers. What other fakery from this administration will NBC knowingly omit from their coverage?
Update II: And the Navy’s Sea Chanters performed live as well.
Update III: Just to clarify, there are good reasons not to play stringed instruments in 30-degree weather. Having a recording as a contingency makes some sense, if one insists on scheduling a string ensemble for an outdoor performance in January in DC, when that kind of weather is the norm rather than the exception. If you play the recording instead of performing live, though, be honest about it. Don’t pretend it’s live when it’s not and make everyone look dishonest, including the performers, who had no control over how the performance was presented.
How difficult is that?