Writings about Music

In the Light of Your Moon

David Amram, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac

I'd like to hone in on how David Amram interprets a masterpiece of Woody Guthrie that has no equal among others who have sung "Pastures of Plenty".

It's a mighty hard row that my poor hands have hoed
My poor feet have traveled a hot dusty road
Out of your Dust Bowl and westward we rolled
And your deserts were hot and your mountain was cold

David's voice, also captured in his Promethean French horn tone, the beguiling rainbow of indigenous flutes he plays, and transcendentally glowing piano illuminations, garners a wondrous richness of musical soil. His expression runs like the waters permeating the earth, going deep as the roots of the plants that feed us.

I worked in your orchards of peaches and prunes
Slept on the ground in the light of your moon
On the edge of the city you'll see us and then
We come with the dust and we go with the wind

After David's Monday night performance at the Cornelia Street Cafe in Greenwich Village, we took to the four-wheel horse named car, rambling over manmade stone for nearly an hour in search of a restaurant still open past midnight perhaps consistent with our common love for exploring distant cultures.

California and Arizona, I make all your crops
And its North up to Oregon to gather your hops
Dig the beets from your ground, cut the grapes from your vine
To set on your table your light sparkling wine

Sure enough, earlier, waiting for David to arrive, I had saddled up to the bustling cafe bar, enjoying a glass of sparkling rosé French wine, making conversation with a woman of Italian descent. Then, I saw Amram outside through the glass windows, moving at a pace removed from time, but all about the abstract rhymes of the vast ocean that is music; his consciousness about to be illuminated through sculpted things we cannot see but know are there - those magical invisible things - because we may hear them through fortuitous apertures someone thought of placing adjacent to where we think and feel.

Green pastures of plenty from dry desert ground
From the Grand Coulee Dam where the waters run down
Every state in this Union us migrants have been
We'll work in this fight and we'll fight till we win

David's music and life is all about raising the downtrodden and awareness, in confluence with his late friend, Allen Ginsberg. They, and their colleagues, extol a vision of shared individual creativity, comfort and happiness, including how another contemporary, John Cage, envisioned technology being used to do just that, including making the world free from pollution and its dire effects.

Well, it's always we rambled, that river and I
All along your green valley, I will work till I die
My land I'll defend with my life if it be
'Cause my pastures of plenty must always be free


Woody Guthrie


Well, a Turkish restaurant we did find, gleaming there in the dark. Excited to come across it, we even parked directly in front of a fire hydrant without realizing it, but fortunately no bring down artist appeared to ticket us over the subsequent hours. Inside, there was the finest lentil soup I've ever tasted, blissfully light and delectable, infused with essence of lemon. We opted for vegetarian entrees, but learning that selection was unavailable due to some depleted ingredients, we settled for grilled salmon with salad, also immaculate. 

Over hot spiced tea known as Çay, we ruminated over our lives in music, including how an inspirited woman from Istanbul had once literally made toes curl upwards.

This writing might go on and on, but allow yourself an entry into heaven on earth by venturing to the Cornelia Street Cafe in Greenwich Village on the first Monday evening of any month to hear David Amram and musicians play.

- Michael Robinson, May 2018, Los Angeles


© 2018 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


The words in parenthesis are the lyrics for "Pastures of Plenty" by Woody Guthrie.

Treat yourself to David Amram's Piano Jazz Interview with Marian McPartland.


Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and writer (musicologist).