Brian Wise covers the classical music business for WQXR, including aspects of performance, technology, philanthropy and institutional trends. He manages the station's homepage and makes sure what you hear on air is what you see online. Follow him on Twitter at @Briancwise.
Listen: Pianist Improvises a Debate Between Obama and Romney
Monday, November 05, 2012 - 12:00 AM
Gabriela Montero, a classical pianist known for her signature improvisations on themes suggested by audience members, dramatizes a debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney in a new recording posted on YouTube.
"Try and guess who is who," the Venezuelan-born pianist calls out to the audience at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall at Northwestern University on Oct. 18. The six-minute improv pits a bluesy, boogie-woogie-style theme against a somber chorale-like melody. The two themes grow more angular and charged, often entangling in the manner of a Charles Ives montage.
Listen to this audio clip and tell us which theme corresponds to the given candidate:
Montero, who played at Obama's inauguration ceremony in 2009, has become campaigner for political change in her home country, and recently wrote ExPatria, a barbed response to Hugo Chavez's reelection.
Of course, composers have dramatized elections and political campaigns in the past, notably Ives, who, in 1896, wrote a campaign song for William McKinley called "William Will." A marine band performed the song at McKinley’s inauguration, giving the composer some of the most visible exposure of his career. Ives re-entered the political fray 25 years later, when, as a staunch supporter of Woodrow Wilson, he wrote An Election for chorus and orchestra, about the cynical election of Warren G. Harding in 1920.
Other famous expressions of political elections include "President Garfield's Inauguration March" by John Philips Sousa; Of Thee I Sing, the Gershwin Brothers's spoof of elections (it concerns the president choosing a First Lady via beauty contest); and Irving Berlin's “I Like Ike,” from 1952.
Tune in to WQXR on Tuesday for more election-inspired works.