Monday, January 21, 2013

Inaugural Fanfare

Perhaps it wasn't the smartest idea in the world to commission a piece for violin, clarinet, cello, and piano for the 2009 Presidential Inauguration, since these things take place outside in January, and in order to be heard the musicians had to mime to a pre-recorded tape, but it was a nice gesture to the community of musicians and music of lovers who think beyond Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson, and even James Taylor when it comes to ceremonial music.

I wish that someone on the committee might have had the cultural foresight to commission some appropriate outdoor music, like, perhaps, a new brass fanfare for today's inauguration. It could have been short, but it could have still been substantial, and could have marked the moment in a way that would be significant for those of us who keep the practice of non-pop music alive. There was talk about painting and sculpture at the Inaugural lunch, and there was poetry at the ceremony. Why does "serious" music seem to be off the cultural radar?

My musical wishes for President Obama's second term? Consider the fact that classical music is not, and has not been (at least during the last hundred years), an exclusively European "art form." There was a classical music concert at the White House in 2009, and I believe that was it for President Obama's first term. Maybe the White House can set a cultural agenda this term that includes more classical music. Is it too much to ask?


Sean said...

From your lips to POTUS's ears... :)

Michael said...

It was nice that an attempt was even made in 2009.

Maybe a bit of a tangent, but did anyone else notice that "My Country 'Tis of Thee" and "The Star Spangled Banner", both songs in simple 3/4 time, were stretched by the arranger to be in 4/4? Can Kelly and Beyonce not express themselves in three? Or, is it that the American People can't handle it?

Elaine Fine said...

That 4/4 arrangement they made for Beyonce was also in E major--a very unusual key for B-flat instruments (who are not usually asked to play music with 5 sharps).

Call me a purist, but I much prefer both songs in 3/4. Maybe the (unnamed and unacknowledged) arranger thought that adding an extra beat might give a little "oomph" of gravitas to the event, in the absence of an original piece for the occasion.

Sean said...

My (vague) recollection is that performing "The Star Spangled Banner" in 4 harkens back to Whitney Huston's rendition in 1991, which was well-received (and also lip-synced). It's an interesting question as to why it's done (especially during such an auspicious occasion), but my guess is it's partly a nod to a kind of "standard" set by that performance (i.e. the pop version of the Anthem). Is it just me, or does it take a special kind of arrogance to do that at the inauguration? And I don't mean Beyonce or Clarkson, rather, the people behind it.

Then again, it was a celebration...

But I've always felt that music such as the Anthem should be about the event/context/meaning than it should ever be about the performer; a case where the musician should be in complete service to the music. The overly-embellished "virtuoso" performances of the Anthem always leave me wanting, to say the least.