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The Grateful Dead and Their World: Popular Music and the Avant-Garde in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1965-75

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This dissertation explores the cultural conditions for the popular appreciation of “high” art, experimental, modernist and avant-garde elements, and the resulting incongruous mélange of genres, through a study of the history of such transgressions of
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   The Grateful Dead and Their World: Popular Music and the Avant-Garde in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1965-75 Melvin J. Backstrom Schulich School of Music McGill University, Montreal December 2017 A thesis submitted to McGill University in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy © Melvin J. Backstrom 2017  Table of Contents Abstract i  AbrŽgŽ ii List of Musical Examples iii List of Illustrations iv List of Tables v Acknowledgements vi Introduction 1 The Politics of SixtiesÕ Counterculturalism 12 On Improvisation 32 Modernism/Postmodernism and the Avant-Garde 36 On Irony 42 Chapter 1: The Art-Popular Music Dialectic in San Francisco, 1965-1970 51 The San Francisco Tape Music Center 51   The Trips Festival as Rock Concert Paradigm 60   Jazz & Rock 72   The Jefferson Airplane 79   Country Joe and the Fish 82 The Grateful Dead: 1967-69 84  Anthem of the Sun  85  Aoxomoxoa  98 Progressive Rock and the Grateful Dead 101  Live/Dead   103 Conclusion 115 Chapter 2: ÒSing Me Back HomeÓ: Musical Traditions and SixtiesÕ Counterculturalism 117 ÒWeÕve got to get ourselves back to the gardenÓ: The Politics of Countercultural Ideals 120 Country Music and Its Countercultural Relations 128 ÒCountry & WesternÓ vs. ÒCountryÓ 131 ÒOkie from Muskogee,Ó the Beach Boys and the Grateful Dead 133 ÒAn Evening with the Grateful DeadÓ 138 Rock-Country-Jazz-Fusion? 142 ÒDark Star>El Paso>Sing Me Back HomeÓ Ð August 27, 1972 144 ÒDark Star>Cumberland BluesÓ Ð September 27, 1972 148 Conclusion 154    Chapter 3: Pastoral Complexity in the Music of the Grateful Dead 161 Countercultural Pastoralism and Its Critiques 163 Leo Marx and The Machine in the Garden 166 On California 170 Earlier Pastoral Evocations in Bay Area Rock Renaissance 175 Complex Pastoralism in Song: An Exegesis of ÒJack StrawÓ 178 Kezar Stadium: May 26, 1973 188 ÒPlaying in the BandÓ 198 The Grateful DeadÕs Rock-Jazz Fusion 203 Wake of the Flood   208 The Songs of Wake of the Flood   211 ÒEyes of the World>China DollÓ 215 Conclusion 224 Chapter 4: Ned Lagin and  Seastones 230 Lagin and the Grateful Dead 233 The Genesis of Seastones 237 Performance History of Lagin and the Grateful Dead, 1970-72 240 February 18, 1971 Ð Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, New York 241 April 8, 1971: The Boston Music Hall 245 LaginÕs Move to the Bay Area Ð November 28, 1973: ÒExperiments in Quadrophonic Sound,Ó Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco 247 Seastones  in Performance, June-October 1974 254 Generative Music 265 The Wall of SoundÕs Psychological and Physiological Motivations 266 Seastones  Ñ The Album 269 Geological Inspirations 275 Formal Analysis 286 Seastones in Performance: June-November 1975 289 The Marketing of Seastones 296 Conclusion 302 Chapter 5: The Grateful Dead and the Blues for Allah  307 The Grateful DeadÕs ÒRetirementÓ 308 Music and Holograms 312   The SNACK Benefit: Kezar Stadium, San Francisco; March 23, 1975 316   ÒBlues for AllahÓ Version One 319   Critical Reception of  Blues for Allah 325 Origins of the title ÒBlues for AllahÓ 333   Analysis of ÒBlues for AllahÓ 336   Part I: Blues for Allah 338 Part II: Sand Castles and Glass Camels 341   Part III: Unusual Occurrences in the Desert 342   Formal Structure 344 ÒBlues for AllahÓ Epilogue 348 Conclusion  352 Appendix A : Analysis of ÒSection 43,Ó Country Joe and the Fish,  Electric Music for the Mind and Body  (Vantage, 1967) 358   Appendix B : Lyrics to ÒOkie from Muskogee,Ó Merle Haggard (Capitol, 1969) 359 Appendix C : Lyrics to ÒSing Me Back Home,Ó Merle Haggard (Capitol, 1967) 360 Appendix D : Ned Lagin music manuscript, ÒAlone,Ó ÒStill-Life,Ó and MoonfaceÓ (1972-75) 361 Appendix E : Ned Lagin lyric manuscripts, ÒAlone,Ó ÒStill-Life,Ó and ÒMoonfaceÓ (1972-75) 362 Appendix F : Ò Seastones Р  Sources,Ó Ned Lagin (January 1970 -November 1972) 365 Appendix G : Pitch-class set analysis of ÒBlues For AllahÓ main theme 367 Bibliography  369 Discography-Videography 388     i Abstract This dissertation explores the cultural conditions for the popular appreciation of ÒhighÓ art, experimental, modernist and avant-garde elements, and the resulting incongruous mŽlange of genres, through a study of the history of such transgressions of aesthetic  boundaries in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1965 to 1975. Based on archival research, interviews with participants, as well as the analysis of key musical works and  practices that influenced and realized such boundary crossings, it offers new insights into the role of this particular time and place in creating the more inclusive musical world of today. Particularly underexplored in earlier scholarship on popular music from the Bay Area at this time is the way in which this type of performance practice has functioned to challenge distinctions between large categories of music, specifically those broadly categorized as popular that are defined, at least partly, in opposition to those considered Òhigh art.Ó Though undoubtedly popular in terms of performance environs, audience, and many qualities of the music performed, the use of musical elements normally understood as outside the usual purview of popular music were quite common during this period in the Bay Area. Yet, in spite of the exceptional nature of this stylistic hybridity, there has  been comparatively little prior scholarship about the specific ways in which those involved negotiated between musical traditions previously understood by many people as irreconcilable, as well as detailed analyses of the techniques and practices used to realize such connections. Because the rock band the Grateful Dead is the most significant example of these various issues from the time and place that form the focus of this study, as well as the most influential, they are the primary concern of this dissertation, though the work of some other related musicians and ensembles is also discussed.
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