Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Things I would have done differently if I had been at Obama's inauguration.

  • If I were the crowd: Not clap a prayer. 
  • If I were the BBC's commentator: Not fade down the first three or four minutes of a new composition byJohn Williams played by Yo Yo Ma, Itzhac Perlman and two others I haven't heard of but should have, in order to bring us the urgent breaking news that William Henry Harrison died a month after his inaugural speech. In 1841. And then realise this choice of anecdote is a bit on the ominous side, and bumble on that: '...that won't happen here. But what will happen is that the crowd will look to the 44th president for lyrical words... like music... music as beautiful as we're listening to now.' We're not listening to it, though. We're listening to you. 
  • If I were John Williams: Not use the above-mentioned collection of talent to play variations on 'I Am The Lord of the Dance Said He'. Was he under the impression Obama was being inaugurated into the Brownies? Or did he just run out of time?
  • If I were Barack Obama: I might have had a bit of a crafty practice of the presidential oath. 
  • If I were Aretha Franklin: Bigger bow for my hat. Much bigger.

Good speech, though, wasn't it? 


Anonymous said...

good speech? I was disappointed. I thought it was a missed opportunity. I think the fact of a black man's ascending to the white house will be remembered, but not the words of that speech. G

Persephone said...

"Lord of the Dance" by Sydney Carter (published in 1963) is adapted from the Shaker hymn "'Tis a Gift to Be Simple", lyrics and melody written in 1848 by Joseph Bracken. John Williams had adapted Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring (1944) (an American symphonic classic, written for the Martha Graham Dance Company and also partially based on the same Shaker hymn) for three instruments for the inauguration.

John Finnemore said...

Greg - Oh, didn't you like it? I thought that, given that the main message was (and had to be) 'Everything's really buggered, you know. Don't think just because you've elected me it's all going to be fine again, because it's not, for ages, and that's not my fault', it was rather good.

Persephone - Oh dear. That feels like something I ought to have known, and/or could have found out with very little effort. Sorry. All I can say in my defence is that, from the sound of it, neither Mr Carter nor Mr Copland's apple fell very far from the tree. And I don't know if 'Lord of the Dance' is as much of a staple in Canadian primary schools and youth groups as it is here, but if it is, you'll understand how, for a philistine, the effect was rather like hearing Ma and his colleagues play variations on 'The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round'...

(I definitely counted four instruments, though. Or does one not count the piano?)

Persephone said...

Re: four instruments. Whoops. In my defense, in the symphonic version of Appalachian Spring, the piano is way at the back, being just a supporting instrument.
Ignore the following if it really isn't your thing (I don't know how you feel about the classical repertoire), but here's how the "Simple Gifts" section of the piece sounds with full orchestra. However, my very favourite part of the piece is the opening. If you're not familiar with Appalachian Spring, and can spare eight minutes, I implore you to have a listen. You'll probably recognise it in short order, and I think it's just one of the most beautiful, dynamic and joyful pieces of music ever written.
But that's just me...

Oh, and we're familiar with the song "Lord of the Dance" in Canada, but I don't think it's quite the staple that it is in Britain.

Niel Bushnell said...

I thought it was very rousing. Made me proud to be American again. I'm not, I'm from Hartlepool, but I felt like I wanted to join in.

Having watched the speach through twice I think Obama (first of last name?) has a gift for rabble rousing. Its all in the timber of his voice. Its not so much what he's saying as how he's saying it.

And his daughter taking pictures of him during his speach. How could you not love that.

I'll get my coat.

Jon said...

Hello. Just popped in to say that I enjoy the blog. Keep it up, man.

According to this lady, it was the Chief Justice, not Obama, that ballsed the oath up.


Ianto said...

I think a bigger bow would have resulted in irrevocable vertebral damage.

John Finnemore said...

Persephone - Thank you! I could spare eight minutes, so I did, and it was terrific.

Jon - Thank you, too. Yes, it seems widely agreed now it was Chief Justice's fault. This is fast becoming the least accurate post I've ever made, which is a shame, because it's also one of the most pompous and snarky, and everyone hates it when pomposity is pricked, don't they?

The BBC voice-over, though. That was definitely annoying. No one can take that away from me.

Stu said...

And now we learn that the music was ... a playback?!

Anonymous said...

Yes very interesting speech

Illyrian History

Emily Hope said...

Just reading through some of your old posts, and I feel compelled to comment.

I grew up knowing and loving "Simple Gifts." My parents once lived in a community house where they sang it at the end of every meeting, and for some reason called it the "Turkey Song." I recently became a Methodist, and "I am the Lord of the Dance" is in the hymnal, and I find it appalling! Seriously, who came up with these lyrics and thought they were a better idea than the original ones?

Anonymous said...

"Simple Gifts" was a choir exercise for me, and there's a really pretty version with Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Kraus.