Yo-Yo Ma: The Std Operating Procedure Sucks

A couple of days ago I heard an interview with Yo-Yo Ma on N.P.R. in which he explained that the quartet performance at the inauguration amounted to a pantomime to a recording made the previous day. Mr. Ma seemed to be unapologetic about this fact. I think he should be embarrassed and should apologise for participating in the deception.

I, for one, thought I was listening to a live performance and was impressed. Now, of course, if I had thought about it for a minute, I might wonder how one could play wood-bodied stringed instruments in 10-degree weather. I suppose I would guess that they had found a way to heat that small area. But I would not have guessed that Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman were miming to a recording.

Mr. Ma also said that this is standard operating procedure for the Marine Corps Band. Well, fuck. Don’t I hear the Marines constantly talking about their integrity and honor? How about this for integrity and honor: If you’re not playing live, you don’t try to make it look like you’re playing live.

Now, you know what? That means that sometimes the weather will be too cold or rainy or whatever for live music, which is the case now. But people in charge of these ceremonies should rather say “We would have liked to present a live performance, but the weather doesn’t permit it, so we’re going to play a recording.” Which is what they’re doing anyway. Why don’t they just admit it up front and dispense with the Yo-Yo Mas and Marine Corps Bands miming to it?

I’m pissed about this, but I prefer a real debate, so that’s why it’s not in the pit.

I don’t think he should be embarrassed or ashamed at all. If he and the quartet were to play, the musical quality would suffer as a result of the weather. For someone of his caliber, anything less than perfection is not worthwhile.

The talking heads on CNN were discussing this over the weekend. The way I understood it was the musicians were playing live in sync with the recording but only a few within earshot could hear the live performance, the recording was going into the sound system.

His instrument was actually made of a carbon composite and was not wood bodied.

However, I, for one, would’ve preferred that Aretha had lip-synched (sank, sunk?)

I just find it a bit ridiculous that they got as far as putting him on the bill. Freezing weather was hardly unexpected, so long ago somebody should have just dropped the whole idea, knowing full well what a charade would inevitably emerge from the use of a backing track.

Could you please explain further, with reference to the points I made in the OP? Because, as it stands, this is what I’m getting:

Me: Yo-Yo Ma should be ashamed of defrauding the public.
You: No, he should not be ashamed, because he’s a perfectionist.

I don’t see how the latter explains the former.

Not true:

Yawn. People have been doing this for decades and decades. It’s quite common, and there is nothing shameful about it. Nobody even cared before Milli Vanilli rolled around. Now, everyone seems to be confused on the topic.

Here’s a tip: It’s not a big deal, so long as you are lip synching or performing to music that you yourself recorded. Just about every major artist has done it, and it will continue to be done in situations that require it.

ETA: Try watching the Macy’s T’giving day parade sometime.

The only times it’s acceptable, IMHO, is when making a video or a TV appearance (where live bands always seem to sound like ass, anyway). Otherwise, it’s just playing Barbies and Kens.

So, was Aretha lip-synching? Doesn’t seem so, since everyone was saying her performance was weak.

…and as an aside, why does it seem like Yo Yo Ma is the only friggin cellist in the world? Has he got exclusive media rights or something?

Here’s my tip: No situation requires it. If you’re listening to a recording, there is never any requirement for someone to stand there and mime as if he or she is playing it live.

I’ve never watched it, but now that I know it’s faked, I have no interest in it.

I’m guessing he’s not embarrassed because he and the group actually did make the recording. This is a bit different from Milli Vanilli or Ashley Simpson here: they didn’t record the song because they’re not capable of playing the notes in live performance, they did it because of the weather. None of this stuff is necessary for a presidential inauguration - a live performance, poetry, a huge marching band, enormous galas - but this specifically, I don’t object to.

How would YOU handle this situation. You’ve got an important event, with world-wide viewers, and you’re stuck with whatever weather Washington D.C has on the 20th of January, for an outdoors ceremony.

Now, the weather is going to adversely affect any performance, by anyone. Cold weather just does that. Voices and instruments don’t like the cold.

So, do you trashcan the idea of having live performers, and just put on the recording? Do you let the musicians play, with live mics, and present a far less then stellar performance?

I don’t think the question is as much ‘should it be done?’ as ‘when it is done shouldn’t they tell us?’

What bothers people is the deception, which there is no need for, and which always looks stupid when the truth inevitably comes out, and wouldn’t be an issue if the simple word ‘prerecorded’ was thrown in there when the performance is announced.

Do you see no difference between unnecessary pomp and actual deception?

People are more interested if they can see the artist. You aren’t, and are part of the minority.

Seriously, did you just start paying attention to the music world? American Bandstand (and numerous other music shows), many outdoor sporting events (including the 2008 Olympic Opening & Closing ceremonies), etc, etc. This is nothing new or controversial.

I don’t buy that people prefer to be subject to deception. If it’s too cold for live music, just say, “Sorry, it’s too cold for live music.” Treat “people” like grownups, not like children who have to be distracted by mimes.

I don’t watch the Olympics; I don’t watch any sporting events or their related musical presentations. I’ve never watched American Bandstand or any show like that. I listen to recordings and I watch (what seem to be) actual live performances on television. If what you’re saying is true and that any “live” performance on TV is likely to be faked, then I no longer have any interest in them.

A fair point. What I was getting at was that Yo-Yo Ma’s standard of performance is so high that he didn’t want to play with the inclement weather. The media were notified in advance that there was a possibility that a recording would be played in place of a truly live performance. Cite. My perspective on the whole thing is that there are more serious things to get worked up about. I don’t think anyone involved is actively trying to perpetuate the illusion that the performance was live. As with all things, YMMV.

I’m stating that the pomp caused the deception: they could have had the quartet play normally but it probably would have sounded crummy. I guess that’s more genuine, but who benefits exactly? The poet was genuinely crummy and nobody’s applauding her for it, and many people have said the cold made Aretha Franklin sound lousy as well. In fact I that’s what she said about it, too.

This was definitely deceptive, I just don’t think it’s a big deal. I don’t think Ma should be embarrassed.

He was playing live. People close to him could hear it. At the same time, a recording was played over the speakers. They weren’t pretending to play, or pantomiming. They WERE actually playing; the instruments just weren’t amplified.