Part 2 of 3, this text is taken from a series of program notes prepared by Donald Swearingen to accompany his compositions We Elect To and Salvation at 1am, two 30-minute works commissioned for public radio’s New American Radio series, which aired on NPR in 1989 and 1991.

What Are You Waiting For?

Salvation at 1am takes its inspiration from the myriad of promotional programming on late night cable television. Typically they are 30-minute advertisements that imitate the format of talk shows. Anything you want: sex, money, self-esteem, God, celluloid freedom, a full head of hair, property, beauty, an exciting life style . . . just call 1-800. Call now. What are you waiting for? Put your hand on the TV screen. Feel the power!

It is yours! Somewhere in that split-second between channels, before the old image fades and the new one registers. For an instant, all the ranting voices coalesce into a single word: salvation. 1am and all is well. Anything you want: sex, money, self-esteem, god, a thin body, a full head of hair, property, beauty, an exciting lifestyle. Just call 1-800. Call now. What are you waiting for? Put your hand on the TV screen and feel the power going through your body. What do you want?

Late-night television, circa 1990. I’m sometimes too sleepy to notice which channel I’m watching and it really doesn’t matter: these nostrums are all offered up in the same language, spoken at a fevered pitch. They are as near as your phone and as deep as your pocketbook. Salvation at 1am goes directly to the heart of the message, discarding the dead-air time and condensing the message to its essence. As with time-lapse photography, we are able to more readily perceive the broad themes that are being parlayed to the not-un-witting viewer. In fact, you would have to be heavily anesthetized to miss these themes in their original context. But the treatment here still manages to provoke due to its sheer concentration of the mindless banter of TV promotional language. I think there is a deep-dish microwave resonance in all of this that we find irresistible. For who among us would not be delivered?

“Money! I’m gonna’ show you how to get it.”

The voices of Salvation at 1am were captured alive in the wasteland of late night television and distilled to a potent concentrate by invisible registers of silicon.

All of the material for Salvation at 1am is taken directly from real TV, no fabrications, no substitutions. You’ve heard it all before, but never quite like this. I’ve taken all your favorite themes, weaknesses, and desires, and bound them up with some of the most memorable moments in all of music “since the creation” (see Richard Nixon, We Elect To). You will thrill to the strains of “if I can do it, you can do it too”, and “my method works”, sung to the tune of Amazing Grace or He Lives. Who can forget the immortal “money, I’m gonna show you how to get it”, or the uplifting “but wait, there’s more”. But, wait! There’s more: if you act now, you also get the meat-chopping blade. So, call 1-800…

Problems

  • smoking
  • hairloss
  • overweight
  • bad credit
  • self esteem
  • tried everything
  • nothing worked

Actions

  • change your life
  • do it
  • try my method
  • don’t wait
  • it’s easy
  • call now
  • touch the TV

Solutions

  • God/Jesus
  • money
  • food
  • credit
  • real estate
  • sex
  • a lifestyle