Following from last weeks column discussing the music surrounding the inauguration of President Obama, I would like to point out and discuss the controversy regarding the Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman performance.
As many of you already know, the classical performance played and streamed on inauguration day was in fact pre-recorded by the quartet just a few days prior to the live performance. As many of you can understand, weather conditions this year have been less than favourable, especially in the past month. As many of you dont know, playing the violin and cello — both very delicate instruments — is difficult enough indoors in a controlled climate, let alone with the wind and bitter cold of a January day in Washington, D.C.
Both Perlman and Ma play on Stradivarius (each centuries old and worth a few million dollars), and it was clear on inauguration day that keeping those instruments in tune would be nearimpossible in the cold. In fact, prior to the day, the New York Times Arts Section ran a piece detailing how Ma was slated to play on a custom-made carbon fibre cello made specifically for him which wouldnt detune as much in the weather. Ma, however, eventually stuck with the Strad.
So whats the problem here? Some people feel cheated that the live performance wasnt exactly live. Perhaps thats a reasonable sentiment. Others feel that world-class musicians such as Perlman and Ma shouldnt conform to the man and stick it out like true musicians — not quite as reasonable, but understandable nonetheless.
The bottom line is that it would have been impossible to give a live performance with violins and cellos, especially one worthy of their reputations. Sure Springsteen played live (hes bad-ass like that) but had you heard what the quartet had actually been playing, you most likely would have preferred to turn the television off. Plus, it isnt like what you heard wasnt performed by the greats.
But, let us digress…
U2 has recently released their first single from their upcoming album, o Line on the Horizon, titled Get on Your Boots. Adding to the overbearing harmonies and minimal Edge-yness, the track sounds out of touch with what U2 should be doing. With How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, U2 rekindled their Joshua Tree dynamic, and in that same way, with their new release, they try to get back to their Pop years. The problem is that Pop was terrible and surely the lowest point (though not commercially) of their career. Instead of expanding on the success of the emotional material found in Atomic Bomb (like City of Blinding Lights ), U2 try to over-present their Vertigo side, and end up sounding well-aged.
On the plus side, the album art is impressive and memorable. The cover features a black and white photo of the sea meeting the sky by Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, and is possibly the bands best cover design yet.