CHESTERTOWN, MD— In 1978, Allen Ginsberg brought the iconoclastic poetry and freewheeling spirit of the Beat Movement to Chestertown. On a visit to Washington College, Ginsberg read his celebrated poem “Howl” to a packed house and, so the story goes, attempted to levitate a few stubbornly recalcitrant buildings.
This month, the spirit of the Beats will return to Washington College in The Beat Generation and All That Jazz, a two-day commemoration headlined by musician David Amram, an original member of the Beats who worked closely with Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and others.
The program begins on Monday, March 28 with a screening of Howl at 7:30 p.m. in Norman James Theatre on the College campus (300 Washington Avenue). This 2010 film, starring James Franco, is a genre-bending hybrid mixing Ginsberg’s original reading of his epic poem with animation and a dramatization of the obscenity trial that followed in 1957. Amram, who often accompanied Ginsberg and Kerouac at coffeehouse “jazz/poetry” performances, will introduce the film.
On Tuesday, March 29, at 7 p.m., Amram will give a concert in Decker Theatre accompanied by Washington College’s own Tom Anthony on bass and Ray Anthony on drums. The trio will play favorites from Amran’s long and varied career, which has included collaborations with iconic musicians and composers ranging from Leonard Bernstein to Dizzy Gillespie and Willie Nelson. The concert will also include a screening of the short 1959 film, Pull My Daisy, narrated by Jack Kerouac with music by Amram.
In his post-Beat years, David Amram has gone on to a stellar career as a musician and composer, producing orchestral and chamber music works, operas, and scores for Broadway productions and feature films, including Splendor in The Grass and The Manchurian Candidate. He has authored three books, including the memoir Offbeat: Collaborating with Kerouac (Paradigm, 2008). During his visit to Washington College, Amram will also offer a special "music/poetry" workshop and open rehearsal for students. (Contact Professor Kenneth Schweitzer, firstname.lastname@example.org, for workshop registration).
“We’re excited to welcome the Beat Generation – in the multitalented person of David Amram – to Washington College,” said Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the C.V. Starr Center. “More than thirty years after Allen Ginsberg’s legendary visit to campus, a new cohort of students will be able to come face-to-face with a movement that continues to inspire millions.”
Sponsored by the C.V. Starr Center and co-sponsored by the American Studies Program, the Department of Music, and the Rose O’Neil Literary House, both Beat Generation programs are free and open to the public.
Founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, Washington College is a private, independent college of liberal arts and sciences located in colonial Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is dedicated to fostering innovative approaches to the nation’s past and present through educational programs, scholarship and public outreach, and a special focus on written history. For more information on the Center, visit http://starrcenter.washcoll.edu.