Obama's Composer in Chief
2:18 PM, Aug 22, 2008 • By KATHERINE EASTLAND
We've already heard from the major newspapers that Kayne West, Fergie, and friends are going to make the pilgrimage to Denver for the upcoming Democratic National Convention. But only Bloomberg has reported that the convention has chosen a "composer in residence."
Amram, 77, has collaborated with impressive folks such as Leonard Bernstein and Dizzy Gillespie. He's also worked with left-leaning poet Allen Ginsberg and writer Jack Keroac.
For the convention, he has specially composed several pieces, including "Three Songs for America," a bass voice and orchestra piece using snippets from speeches by, predictably, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther Kind Jr, and Robert Kennedy. He will perform another piece, also for voice and orchestra, based on Rev. Jesse Jackson's free verse "I am - Somebody" poem, which he recited on Sesame Street in 1971. (Apparently, material gets recycled and reused: the poem also inspired the title song crooned by rapper will.i.am on a 2005 album titled "All That I Am.")
Along the same line, he will conduct the Colorado Children's Choir, which will sing a piece incorporating sentences like "I am a Bronco's fan, I am a cab driver, I am a mother," all taken from interviews with the people of Denver. And yes, there will be audience participation. It will be a yes we can moment.
In his email to the Bloomberg news, Amram gleely wrote:
"I'm planning to spring a surprise ... an Obama singalong during 'Now's the Time.' You are the first to see it since I just made it up!
"'What's the time ... NOW's the time,' repeat with chorus call and response. The final two bars: 'What's the time? OBAMA TIME!'''
Some will read having a "composer in residence"--which is a residence lasting only four days--as smacking of elitism. It's artsy, it's fancy, it's white collar starched and pressed. And yet, Amram's song and subject remain the people. His high art condescends.
And the people will undoubtedly eat it up, because in Obama's world we all get crowns, which is an offer hard to refuse.