Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inaugural Arts

Has this happened with every presidential inauguration but just not registered in my long-term memory? I was surprised at the number of concerts and celebratory gatherings nation-wide in the days leading up to President Obama's inauguration. All the anticipatory musical performances, TV and Internet broadcasts, small-town events, and online activities made the upcoming inauguration seem more like a cultural than a political event. (But I suppose it can be both; doesn't a country's culture include its civic pride and participation in the process of self-government?)

Fast-forward to yesterday: the inauguration itself featured notable artistic elements that I enjoyed and that made me glad to see the arts' still enjoying a prominent role in formal public ceremony. Poet Elizabeth Alexander read her poem "Praise Song for the Day." Unfortunately, her recitation was in the herky-jerky style that has become popular among some poets in recent years: pausing randomly while reading to break the poem into illogical two- or three-word chunks and lifting the voice before each pause just as one does with a question (e.g., "roses ARE? [pause, look around meaningfully] red VIOLETS? [repeat pause-and-look] are blue YOU? [ditto] look like A? [more pausing] monkey and YOU? [etc.] smell LIKE? [etc.] one TOO?").

To spare you that experience, Faithful Reader, I recommend you skip the online videos of that poetry reading and instead read the poem yourself. It's pretty good, and when you read it yourself, you can observe the capital letters and terminal puncutation marks throughout (don't pause at the end of a line unless you see a punctuation mark there) actually to understand what you're reading without the pretentious and nonsensical pausing that unnecessarily makes a poem difficult to comprehend.

No instructions are needed, however, for how to listen to the musical performance by Itzhak Perlman, Gabriela Montero, Anthony McGill, and Yo-Yo Ma of "Air and Simple Gifts" by John Williams. And to make it super-easy for you to enjoy the song, here it is:

P.S. And check out the White House's new online look.

P.P.S. See the poll in the sidebar to the right to register your vote.

1 comment: