Please make yourself at home! Check some tags, do some reading, leave a comment.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Garciaverse Musics

I'll just throw this out there for comment, spitballing, and eventual dismantlement as a putative mapping (for Garciaverse purposes) of American music.


  1. Or as Dylan put it, "There are a lot of spaces and advances between the Carter Family, Buddy Holly, and, say, Ornette Coleman, a lot of universes, but he filled them all without being a member of any school."

    As far as this chart, "electronic weirdness" is an awkward non-fit in the grid. Personally I'd put rock & roll in the intermediate zone between black & white, and electronic weirdness in the "contemporary white" category, but perhaps that needs more analysis. And I wonder how "blues" wandered over to "traditional white"? Admittedly this is all just hair-splitting...

  2. Yeah, of course, just a thought experiment.

    There are both black and white gospel musics, and black and white blues musics.

    I think of rock 'n' roll as following the rockabilly path out of the black world and more squarely in the white one (so to speak), as distinct from R&B, which, if forced to choose, I'd think of as a black form.

  3. There are definitely separate black & white spiritual-music traditions (both of which Garcia drew from) - but, to be picky, I disagree with the idea that there's a separate white blues tradition.
    While there have been white blues players since at least the '20s, by and large they were imitating or covering black performers.
    With jazz, perhaps you could have separate black & white jazz-music categories; but it still seems correct to categorize it as "black" music - and even more so with blues.
    Of course, there was the white blues-rock trend of the '60s, which Garcia was a part of; but that was a contemporary hybrid, not traditional music.
    (I could be mistaken - perhaps there were white blues composers you were thinking of. This is just for the sake of discussion & clarifying the map of the Garciaverse!)

  4. This is helpful for me. I am just thinking out loud and looking for just the kind of feedback you are providing.

    A white blues tradition that's not derivative of black blues? I guess, now that you mention it, I can't really put a name in this category, meaning it's maybe not a good category!

  5. And, re electronic weirdness, I am open to think more about it. As white music we're talking John Cage and musique concrete and whatever. I wanted to leave some room for, like, late 60s Miles, but I don't think "electronic weirdness" is really accurate - it's jazz, it's funk, it's fusion. This is another case where I can't think of an artist --doesn't mean one doesn't exist-- who is well captured by that category. So, out it goes.

  6. There's another category missing here--non-American music, or at least non-American indigenous music. I don't think Garcia was hugely influenced by Indian music, Irish music or Classical music, but you can't say it wasn't there. In that respect, the "modern or electronic music" (Berio, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Cage etc) was more of a European tradition, even in when it was played by Americans in America.

    From the same point of view, blues as performed or transformed by UK musicians (Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Van Morrison) was still an expression of an African-American tradition. Garcia heard Eric Clapton in the context of Buddy Guy and John Coltrane, and Clapton would have wanted him to.

  7. True, there are some Indian & classical music influences in Garcia's playing; but in his repertoire, he scarcely stepped outside American music genres (aside from British folk ballads).

    But the "electronic music" question looms up - it's certainly a significant part of the Garciaverse in the early '70s (with the Dead, with Ned, on his solo album). I don't think it has much to do with Miles-style weirdness, but is basically a white tradition. Not sure if it can be called specifically European, though, it was an international movement with both European (Stockhausen, Berio) and American (Subotnick, Cage, Riley) composers.

    Garcia was asked in 1982 about the electronic music on his first album:
    "It isn't something that I took up, really. With that record, I had a certain approach in mind, especially for the side that has stuff you could describe as electronic. You could describe it more accurately as audio collage. I don't see electronic pieces as songs. I wouldn't feel comfortable about having an electronic tune in and amongst more conventional music because it's not really a format that I'm comfortable with."

  8. Yeah, these are mostly American musics that interest me. Reggae is the main non-American musical form that Garcia engaged.


!Thank you for joining the conversation!