David Amram: creating a true music culture through love
November 18, 2022 2:51 PM   Subscribe

David Amram is an American composer, arranger, and conductor of orchestral, chamber, and choral works, many with jazz flavorings. He plays piano, French horn, Spanish guitar, and pennywhistle, and sings. He has worked with Langston Hughes, Jack Kerouac, Dizzy Gillespie, Mary Lou Williams, Aaron Copland, Pete Seeger, Willie Nelson, Charles Mingus, Bob Dylan, Thelonious Monk, Patti Smith, and many others. Yesterday he turned 92 years old.

He's composed more than 100 orchestral, chamber, choral, and operatic works. He composed the film scores for Splendor in the Grass, The Arrangement, The Young Savages, and The Manchurian Candidate.

He's written books:
Vibrations: A Memoir (Google Books)
Offbeat: Collaborating with Kerouac (Google Books)

and various other pieces:
David Amram Remembers Jack Kerouac at The Allen Ginsberg Project

There's so much video:

David Amram's Waltz from "After The Fall" performed by Paquito D'Rivera and David Amram

David Amram with Dizzy Gillespie

"This Land: Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie":
Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie
Amram talks about "This Land: Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie"
Nora Guthrie on asking Amram to compose a work based on "This Land"

"Ode to Lord Buckley":
Ode to Lord Buckley, movement 3
Amram's notes on Ode to Lord Buckley

Pull My Daisy, featuring Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Gregory Corso
David Amram performs "Pull My Daisy"

David Amram: The First 80 Years (Documentary trailer)

dozens of David Amram videos, including performances and interviews

and some audio:

Rag Radio, 2012, with Amram
3 Greenwich Village Portraits

Brief mentions of Amram previously on MetaFilter: 2008 DNC composer-in-residence; Robert Frank and Pull My Daisy; What the Third Stream Isn't, Amram, Einstein, and Coltrane

Be sure to check out Wikipedia on David Amram for the Charlie Parker omelet.

Happy birthday, Mr. Amram.
posted by kristi (6 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
My very first encounter with David Amram was somewhere around age...six or so? The encounter was via Raffi's "Peanut Butter Sandwich" on Singable Songs for the Very Young (which I'm sure is mentioned somewhere in this cornucopia of links, as there's a "Raffi" tag on the post!).

These are the lyrics that are forever in my brain when I play "Arkansas Traveller" as an instrumental. Since I end up playing the tune a few times in any given month, David Amram is always with me.

Lots to dive into here. Thanks!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:23 PM on November 18, 2022 [3 favorites]

Like every Canadian of my generation, I was astounded to learn that David Amram was a real person and not just a fictional peanut-butter sandwich eater whose name was invented to rhyme with "jam." I learned this when I was an undergrad and my boss was a friend or contact of his somehow. He (my boss) mentioned to David Amram that he'd mentioned him (David Amram) to his student (me) and I was amazed that he existed and awed that my boss knew him. He (David Amram) replied that this was absolutely the most impressive thing about him according to his kids' friends.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 3:30 PM on November 18, 2022 [3 favorites]

Indeed, mandolin conspiracy!

From Wikipedia:
Amram is mentioned in the popular children's song "Peanut Butter Sandwich" by Raffi, in the line "one for me and one for David Amram", a fact which Amram said "impressed" his children; Raffi later admitted that he had mentioned Amram because he "couldn't think of anything [else] to rhyme with 'jam'.
posted by kristi at 3:31 PM on November 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

I saw him two nights in a row at different venues in Lowell, MA at the Kerouac Festival once in the late 90s and he was on piano and he did this scat bepop thing that was really cool and really sounded extemporaneous and jazzy, more like storytelling with scat and rhymes mixed in with piano, that he then preformed exactly the same the second night.
posted by princelyfox at 2:26 AM on November 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Apparently unrelated (at least not closely) to famous comedy writer Megan Amram.
posted by neuron at 7:45 PM on November 19, 2022

princelyfox: That's really funny - we had that identical experience!

I saw Amram maybe 40? years ago at Cafe Lena's in Saratoga. The show was SO much fun that we went back for more on the following night - and witnessed an essentially identical "extemporaneous" show.

(...Not that this was BAD - but he had really made the first night seem so utterly improvisational...
"Professional entertainers are professional," I guess is the lesson here)
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 3:33 PM on November 20, 2022

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