David Amram has composed more than 100 orchestral and chamber music works, written many scores for Broadway theater and film, including the classic scores for the films Splendor in The Grass and The Manchurian Candidate; two operas, including the groundbreaking Holocaust opera The Final Ingredient; and the score for the landmark 1959 documentary Pull My Daisy, narrated by novelist Jack Kerouac. He is also the author of three books, Vibrations, an autobiography, Offbeat: Collaborating With Kerouac, a memoir, and Upbeat: Nine Lives of a Musical Cat published in the fall of 2007 by Paradigm Publishers.
A pioneer player of jazz French horn, he is also a virtuoso on piano, numerous flutes and whistles, percussion, and dozens of folkloric instruments from 25 countries, as well as an inventive, funny improvisational lyricist. He has collaborated with Leonard Bernstein, (who chose him as The New York Philharmonic’s first composer-in-residence in 1966), Dizzy Gillespie, Langston Hughes, Dustin Hoffman, Willie Nelson, Thelonious Monk, Odetta, Elia Kazan, Arthur Miller, Charles Mingus, Lionel Hampton, Johnny Depp and Tito Puente.
Amram’s most recent orchestral works include Giants of the Night, (commissioned and premiered by flutist Sir James Galway in 2002); Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie, (commissioned by the Woody Guthrie Foundation in 2007); and Three Songs: A Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (written for and premiered by pianist John Namkamatsu in 2009). He was also chosen as the 2008 Democratic National Convention’s “Composer In Residence For Public Events.” In 2012 Amram is working on a new orchestral piece and new book. He is the subject of Lawrence Kraman’s new documentary film about his life, David Amram: The First 80 Years.
Recent awards for Amram include being inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.as a recipient of their Jay McShann Lifetime Achievement Award., being awarded the 1st Annual Bruce Ricker Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to him by Clint Eastwood’s editor Joel Cox under the auspices of The Paso Digital Film Festival, as well as being the recipient of six honorary Doctorates.
Today, as he has for over 50 years, Amram continues to compose music while traveling the world as a conductor, soloist, bandleader, visiting scholar, and narrator in five languages.
Why did you write the song and participate in Occupy This Album?
After playing on the recording with Michael Moore when he gave such a rousing performance of Dylan’s classic The Times they are
a’ Changing” , with Tom Chapin’s fine musical direction, I got such a great feeling from doing it that i went home and wrote “It’s Time to Occupy”
I strongly feel that everyone i have had the pleasure of meeting involved with this recording feels the same way.
it is an honor to be a small part of it.
What the movement means to me/where do I think the movement is heading?
When i marched last Fall in NYC with Pete Seeger and others for 40 blocks to perform an impromptu midnight concert honoring the participants of OWS and saw all the young people gathered at Columbus Circle where we performed, i realized it was important for them to know that they had the support of older folks (Pete was 92, and i was about to turn 81)
I feel that Occupy Wall street is a huge step towards bringing back the idea of all of us exercising our rights of free speech in a responsible and effective way. And fortunately, it hasn’t become co-opted by any entertainment conglomerates. Oy remains today what it started out to be. OWS is about community and practicing what is common sense in order to move things forward for all of us.