The Grateful Dead and Philosophy: Getting High Minded about Love and Haight

By Steven Gimbel | Go to book overview

16
You Don’t Need Space:
A Question of Musical Value

MARY MACLEOD

As the second set of a Dead concert begins, my husband is a happy camper. He knows Drums and Space are coming, and when they do, he will take great pleasure in it. This is his first mistake. Space is bad, and the correct response is displeasure.

“Come on,” says Eric, “you like free jazz, so you should like Space. There’s a place in music for free rock. Space gives us music relatively unhindered by conventional melodic and rhythmic constraints. It’s still clearly rock, but in an interestingly abstract way, and it generates a good feeling, a good mood.”

“Not for me, it doesn’t. Anyway, that’s not the point,” say I. “The issue isn’t how it happens to makes you (or me) feel. The issue is whether Space has artistic merit, musical value. Any fool who noodles around in his basement can play unconnected rock licks for twenty minutes. It’s happening right now all over the world. What’s special about that? I’m not saying Jerry is no better than some novice who just picked up an instrument, but the difference between them isn’t really shown by Space. It’s just noodling. It’s too easy. And that makes it musically uninteresting.”

“What’s interesting,” says Eric, “is how the band manages to play together, in sensitive ways, without the usual framework of grooves and chord progressions. There’s your musicianship, your artistic value. And maybe you don’t know this, but Space is actually pretty theoretical. If you’re going to get all snooty, remember the connection with Modern Classical music. Bob Weir has been quite explicit about that influence.”

-191-

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