David Amram

American Musician

b. November 17, 1930


The Beat Fusion of Jazz Music and Poetry

David Amram is a world renowned composer, conductor and solo instrumentalist. He is reportedly one of the twenty most performed composers of concert music in the United States. In addition to two operas he has written over 100 orchestral and chamber compositions. In 1961 he wrote the music for Elia Kazan's film Splendor in the Grass starring Natalie Wood. In 1962 he composed the music for John Frankenheimer's film The Manchurian Candidate starring Frank Sinatra. In 1966 at the age of 30 he was appointed the first composer-in-residence by the New York Philharmonic.

Amram grew up on a farm outside of Philadelphia where his father frequently played recordings made by the Jewish cantor Yossele Rosenblatt. His connection with the Beats began in the mid-1950s when he left home to begin playing music in New York City.

Amram began an association with the Beats after he met Kerouac who frequented the Five Spot Club where Amram played jazz. While not a musician Jack was a music lover. Amram and Kerouac developed a friendship that resulted in a December 1957 performance at the Brata Art Gallery. Kerouac, Jack Micheline, Howard Hart and Philip Lamantia read and improvised poetry while Amram played jazz on his French horn. This performance at the Brata that interconnected and fused jazz and poetry was almost as remarkable as the famous "Six Gallery" poetry reading that had taken place a few months earlier in San Francisco (where Ginsberg first read "Howl.".)

In 1959 Amram worked with Kerouac on the independently made film, Pull My Daisy. Amram later described the collaboration:

[Jack], Allen, and Neal Cassady also wrote the lyrics for the title song "Pull My Daisy", for which I wrote the music and was sung in the film by Anita Ellis. Jack put on earphones and asked me to play, so that he could improvise the narration to music, the way we had done at our readings. He watched the film, and made up the narration on the spot. He did it two times through spontaneously, and that was it. He refused to do it again. He believed in spontaneity, and the narration turned out to be the very best thing about the film.

Amram has traveled far since those "white hot" days in Greenwich Village but his roots and vision remain distinctly Beat. In a newspaper article published in October 1998 he reflects on the substance of the Beat movement:

We were rejoicing, and what I believed and what Jack [Kerouac] believed and the others believed was that part of being an artist and a real person was being inclusive, not exclusive. It was a whole community of artists, poets, painters and assorted dreamers who were looking for more in life who spent time with one another in the most informal and simple way to reinforce each others' dreams.

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David Amram- 1999 Cosmic Player Plate
URL: http://www.cosmicbaseball.com/amram9.html
Published: February 27, 1999
Copyright © 1999 by the Cosmic Baseball Association
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