a Memorex moment

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That quartet performance on Tuesday was gorgeous, wasn't it?

Too bad it was recorded:

Mr. Perlman said the recording, which was made Sunday at the Marine Barracks in Washington, was used as a last resort. "It would have been a disaster if we had done it any other way," he said Thursday in a telephone interview. "This occasion's got to be perfect. You can't have any slip-ups."


"I really wanted to do something that was absolutely physically and emotionally and, timing-wise, genuine," Mr. Ma said. "We also knew we couldn't have any technical or instrumental malfunction on that occasion. A broken string was not an option. It was wicked cold."

The article mentions that the Marine band and choruses performed live under the same conditions--without benefit of a backup recording.

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So, if there is a recording, why isn't it available via iTunes yet?

I was at the inauguration, and as a professional clarinetist (a former member of one of the DC Army Bands, in fact), I was more than a little shocked that they would be playing outside like that. Wind instruments are quite a bit more forgiving than strings in that kind of temperature, so the woodwinds in the military bands are playing plastic instruments, as wood tends to crack from the combination of the moisture and the temperature difference between the outside of the instrument and the inside. Perlman and Ma could have used second- or third-string instruments, too, but they were surrounded by heaters, so the temperature would have been changing constantly, wreaking havoc on pitch. I was especially surprised to see that the clarinetist was using his "real" instrument out in that weather--the barrel, the piece below the mouthpiece, was made of rosewood (made by Morrie Backun, if I'm not mistaken, and even more unstable than Mpingo, which the rest of the clarinet is made of), and I'm surprised it didn't crack in half, as it probably would have if he'd really been playing, so I wasn't so shocked to hear that it was recorded.

I understand why they did what they did, but still. If you can't play live, maybe you shouldn't be playing!

You know, I've been thinking about it, and I think it was perfectly okay, given the circumstances. As for the choruses, their throats stay at 98.6 regardless of outside temps, and no one musician in the Marine Band was so exposed as the members of the quartet. It's easier to hide mistakes when you're surrounded by an entire band (says a former flute player who never quite got it right at the concert).

I agree with their decision.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on January 23, 2009 12:10 PM.

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