Grateful Dead And The Art Of Rock Improvisation

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Grateful Dead and the Art of Rock Improvisation

More than fifteen years since the death of lead guitarist and singer Jerry Garcia, the Grateful Dead stand as a symbol of the unresolved cultural clashes of the 1960s. The band’s thirty-year odyssey is a testament to the American imagination, with thousands of live concert recordings by fans and the band itself, preserved alongside an impressive array of images, artwork, and paraphernalia. Most recently, the Grateful Dead have released from their vault their entire 1972 European tour, one of the largest boxed sets of live music—seventy-three compact discs—ever released. This publicly available archive of recorded music lays the groundwork for David Malvinni’s exploration of the band’s musical signature as the ultimate jam band in Grateful Dead and the Art of Rock Improvisation. Malvinni considers a select group of songs from the Dead’s early repertoire, from its unique covers of “Viola Lee Blues,” “Midnight Hour,” and “Love Light” to original masterpieces like “Dark Star.” Marrying basic music analysis to philosophical frames offered by improvisatory musings of Heidegger, Derrida, and Deleuze, Malvinni presents the core aesthetic underlying the Dead’s musical styling.

In tracing the evolution of the band’s unique jam style, Malvinni outlines the...

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