This is an epic Marty ramble...be warned.
Being the questioning sort of guy, I have asked myself many times about the greater role the Dead played in my life. The first answer was that it allowed me to be whoever the F#%* I wanted to be. It freed me from the confines of being a Upstate NY towny/townie.
But that wasn't all of it. It was LSD in NYC in the early '80's. It was the destruction of social construct. And then there was Jerry. As stated numerous times, I did not get it on my first show. I'd been a rocker. Led Zep & Pink Floyd were my toxins. Morning & night. The Dead was not the music of my peers until I hit the City. I didn't understand the pseudo-country ramblings, but I did dig the scene. It gave me constant access to some vehicles of mind which seemed important at the time.
I caught this back in May.http://www.radiolab.org/2007/sep/24/
2nd part…Sound as Touch
Cortical neurons inherently love perfect 5ths. And…will release small amounts of dopamine which tells the brain…I’m pleased.
Dissonance causes these same special neurons to release too much dopamine…which is literally associated with schizophrenia. When Stravinsky first played Rite of Spring in 1913 the music it caused a riot. A year later he was carried out as a hero. 20 years later it’s in Disney. They feed schizophrenics dopamine suppressants. However…the special neurons eventually always reconcile the dissonance. Fascinating.
I've heard it said that Jerry had a form of synesthesia which allowed him to experience sound as color. It’s probably not all that uncommon. 1 in 23 people have some form. So…if he was on and you were receptive…he could (consciously or subconsciously) influence you with a touch
of sound, and through creative dissonance…take you to unexpected places. Make you feel the emotion (perhaps) going on in his brain in the here and now. Or perhaps sing a new wordless verse of the song of the moment.
This is juxtaposed against a standard RnR musical performance. You hear a song. You like the song. You like the album. You buy tickets. The artist delivers these knowns…without creating much tension against the knowns. Lot’s of pleasant dopamine, but never too much. But ultimately it becomes boring. The soloist delivers just a bit more than the album version. To me ...it seems dead.
In GD music, we are constantly besieged by this dissonance and resolution …the hard edge of Help On the Way >Slipknot to the needed resolution of Franklin’s Tower. We always want
the Franklins…because we want our dopamine to make us feel good. I always feel the crowd hold their breath until the opening notes. The other thing I always thought was cool was when the Boys would start a great number...something that went too long unplayed...Dark Star in the late '80's. Half of the crowd would have no idea what was coming but the energy pulls everyone to their feet...even the family in the back that just came for the spectacle.
Maybe this is why it’s not possible for most of us…to get it
on the first pass. Unless you grew up with it playing in your ears, like my sons. Same with jazz. We can’t immediately tolerate the dissonance. Too much dopamine. Makes us schizophrenics. A jazz player I regularly study with says our appetite for dissonance grows as we continue to play. What once sounded "off" will first become a transitional note, and eventually become a target.
I think this process is also part of how we as players might think about playing/performing GD music. We take the skill set from studying music from the past. We build the skills & tools to form the songs, then the solos, but what then? A set of Dead music played note for note would always find new ears, and create the emotional journey of dissonance & resolution. But...my take would be that we ultimately must use the tools to create our own sonic experience.
Should we aspire to learn to sing through our fingers right to our emotion of the moment? Could we touch
a listener with the sounds of our own internal peace or chaos?
Well...some of you can...I've got to get back to my job-job. But tonight it'll be double-stops, arpeggios, riffs & rhythmn work.
p.s. ~ I hope you at least find the Radiolab thing interesting. This was not intended as a speech from some pulpit...or a sermon...just some crap I was thinkin' about with a GD theme.