Monday, August 25, 2008


The Democratic National Convention coming right on the broadcast heels of the Olympics makes for some really offensive television reporting. Allow me to rant.

Today I heard someone refer (favorably) to Michelle Obama as an athlete, while talking about her preparation for her speech tonight. She is not an athlete. She is a lawyer, a mother, and a brilliant speaker. Everything is just catty-wampus with the television. There is a sportscaster-like quality to the way that the "best political teams on television" deal with something that is extremely serious: definitely not an athletic event. It seems that they, the entertaining body of "racecasters," are appealing to the sports viewers in their television audience, which is a large and ever-growing demographic.

I believe that this election is about transparency of government and making government accountable for what it does with the money that taxpayers pay to make it run. It is about making it possible for normal people to live respectable lives. It is about restoring the image of America in the eyes of people over the world, and having a society where doing the right thing is part of being a citizen. We need elected officials who do the right thing for the right reasons. This is not a game, and it is certainly not an athletic event where there are winners and losers who can brush themselves off and go on to the next event. If people don't make intelligent choices for the right reasons, we all lose, and there is no next event.

I hate it when the the network and cable television anchors (and they are anchors because they are holding fast to the bottom of the lake or the ocean, like bottom feeding fish) ask the question, "What does Barack Obama have to do" to reach this or that demographic. Everywhere that Barack Obama goes people welcome him. The zillions of people who go listen to his speeches do so because they want to hear him speak--what he says has meaning. He doesn't need to do anything except show up and do what he always does. His content varies with time, but his message is completely consistent. He is running for president because he knows that he can do what needs to be done, and he understands the "fierce urgency of now."

What does "What does Barack Obama have to do" mean anyway, except to place doubts and questions (and worries) in people's minds. The best political teams (and I'm talking about the mainstream media and the cable media--the folks that make their money from selling advertising) want to keep people watching them and watching their commercials, which seem to be more and more for health insurance, a wide range of pharmaceuticals, selling your jewelry for the gold, and ways to get out of debt.

Say, why don't the people covering the convention talk about the pieces that David Amram wrote that are going to be played in connection with this convention? Because their television audience isn't interested. I ask the question "What does David Amram have to do to get people to care about the pieces he has written?" The answer is simple. Nothing. There is nothing that he can do to get people to care about music the way they care about sports and competition. Come to think of it, the current television audience's idea of music seems to be most focused on competition, with a world divided into winners and losers, with no accounting for taste or even quality.



Michael Leddy said...

Wow, Elaine!

Mark said...

I could not agree more Elaine.

What really irks me about the cable news giants is that they seem to do less reporting of the facts and more reporting of their opinions as facts.

As you might imagine, I loathe Lou Dobbs.

Anonymous said...

Dear elaine:

hank you fr the nuc mention of my music nd more important, he thughtful critique of our often shallow and innacurate news presentations on TV
I am happy to say that
after hiding out at the farm in upstate Nw york, composing my new piano concerto for most of August, I am now in Denver for my series of concerts for the Democratic National Convention August 22-27, where I have been designated as the composer-in-residence.

My opening concert at the convention Sunday, August 24th was called...................

"Outside of Convention- From Fanny Lou Hamer to Martin Luther King to Barack Obama: How the Civil Rights Movement changed American politics"

This gala event, (free to the public in Denver as well as to the delegates and their families) was sponsored by Nation Magazine, the Democratic National Convention, the Denver Public Library and PBS, (both the English and Spanish speaking stations) who taped my opening concert as well as other events, including the August 24th program at Convention Center, which took place at the Convention Center the night before the opening of the convention.

My musical contributions included my Three Songs for America, settings of speeches by John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy for bass voice and orchestra, written 40 years ago for PBS. The singer was really exceptional and was the best performance the piece has ever received.

For the second piece, I conducted the Colorado Children's Chorale (a killer 100 voice prize winning choir) in three pieces for children's chorus for which I composed both the words and the music, dedicated to three great musicians I have played with over the years. They are Native American master musician and actor Floyd Red Crow Westerman, jazz innovator Thelonious Monk and ambassador of Afro-Cuban music, band leader Machito. I'll conduct the chorus, accompanied by my trio.

We also performed the premiere of a new piece for which I composed both the words and music, based on the "I am somebody" statement of Rev. Jesse Jackson in a version I conducted with the children's choir, based on short sentences by the people of Denver who were interviewed on the street by sociologist Dr Audrey Sprenger, for a film she created for the convention as well as the Denver Public Library, documenting their own statements ("I am a cabdriver, i am a student, i am a Bronco's fan, I am a future doctor, i am a proud father....etc)

All of these statements were sung and chanted, with audience participation, as a call and response, accompanied by my jazz trio, with special guest Jose Madera, leader of the Latin Giants of Jazz.

Congressman John Conyers was honored for his work in civil rights, interviewed in a discussion with John Nichols, editor of Nation Magazine, about the progress over the past sixty years of everyone's civil rights in America. Congressman Conyers is also a lifetime supporter of jazz as a national treasure (as well as his being someone who truly appreciates the symphonic masterpieces of European culture and how they relate to jazz as music which endures)

We ended the evening with my "Theme and Variations on Amazing Grace" followed by the grand finale with my trio playing Now's the Time by Charlie Parker, honoring the early civil rights slogan "Our moment is Now," with audience participation.

Here is the program. I wish you could have been there, it was standing room only and a real thrill as well as an honor to be part of. I have other events all week long, and a Little piano in my room where I can work on composing the piano concerto in between all hectic activities.

I also played a series of concerts for radio station KUVO here in Denver with some outstanding musicians which was simultaneously broadcast by WWOZ in New Orleans, and at one of the sessions performed with Hugh Masekela.

i also played at Red Rock (gorgeous amphitheater with 14,000 people there as guest artist with the bands of Jerry Jeff Walker and with Willie Nelson, and did a program for teachers and students at the Denver Academy, showing how the principles of musical construction in countries around the world could be used to teach geography, languages, social studies, history and for the developmental skills
in adapting to a global culture.

And my piano concerto between all this keeps me from getting in trouble!!!

(Composing into the wee hours every night)

Best cheers from Mile High City.

It is our job to bring the joy of music everywhere we go, and we ill cntinue to do it


Elaine Fine said...

Thank you so much for this, David.