Public Lecture by Sandy Pearlman at the Faculty of information, University of Toronto December 3

24Nov14

Sandy Pearlman

Sandy Pearlman: University of Toronto, Marshall McLuhan Centenary Fellow, Dean’s Professor for Interdisciplinary Innovation Producer: Blue Oyster Cult, Clash, Dream Syndicate, Dictators, et al

Public Lecture: Faculty of Information, University of Toronto December 3, 2014, 4:30-6pm, Bissel 538

Grateful Dead, Grayfolded, Vinyl and Virtual: John Oswald Unwinds the Toxic Consequences of Digital.

John Oswald/The Grateful Dead (1996), Grayfolded: A completely unique and signal instance of very late 20th century music invention, in describing it to my students I call it “Dream Music of the Information Overlords”.

What should, would or could a recording of a rock Symphony sound like, if it were created (and/or assembled) in the very late 20th Century, and, somehow simultaneously incorporated into its composition, well over a hundred different performances, well separated in time, place and space, of, an originally folk ballad based song, “Dark Star”, which the Grateful Dead first recorded as a 3 minute+ single, and, subsequently turned into a vast long form performance piece which essentially became their most signifying jam base music for most of the 30 years following its original composition?

Furthermore, creating, in this case meant inventing the very means of composition of this quasi-symphony, and, inventing, meant dreaming the whole thing up, since, creating a music/information object of such magnitude was previously possible only in a dream. Impossible, that is to say, until it was actually accomplished, by the musician/composer/technology designer John Oswald, in the form of his Grayfolded, a rock symphony in all but name.

Grayfolded was originally a 2 CD set that virtually recomposes and reassembles numerous recordings of “Dark Star” made by the Grateful Dead under any and all circumstances. Oswald’s work utilizes samples culled from an original ‘database’ of over 200 recordings made over a twenty-six year period. The 100+ performances, eventually chosen as working materials, were sampled in the early 1990s, by means of technology mostly invented by Oswald. In point of fact Grayfolded was impossible until Oswald “dreamt up” the technical means to make it possible: Long before the invention of ProTools, Digital Performer, Logic etc, Grayfolded was impossible until Oswald “dreamt up” the radical technical means to make it possible. As a function of this new Digital technology, Oswald accomplished invention of a radical new sonority, no less than Phil Spector had some 30 years earlier.

Grayfolded is the most dense simultaneous application to date of the theoretics of Plenum Effects; Saturation vs. Coherence, and, the Dialectic of Saturation and Coherence; Horizontal and Vertical Iteration; Distributed Surfacing of Occulted Thematics; etc: i.e., all the core drivers of music as simultaneous Technical and Technological Ecstasy. Recently the means by which music is created, produced and distributed has become the venue for a huge (but) counterintuitive boom in Analog technologies, including the shockingly profitable resurrection of the Vinyl LP. In a de facto recognition of Digital toxicity: The Analog Strikes Back. And now in a truly signal instance of belling the (china) cat, Grayfolded has just been repurposed by Oswald and released as a 3 Disc Vinyl set. Dream Music of the Information Overlords, or, of the Information Overload? And where does all this leave the Identity of Being and Knowledge anyway?

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 Sandy Pearlman/MicroBio

Currently Dean’s Professor for Interdisciplinary Innovation and a Marshall McLuhan Centenary Fellow at the University of Toronto . Until recently the Schulich Distinguished Chair at McGill University. A Woodrow Wilson Fellow in the History of Ideas at Brandeis.

A New School Fellow in Sociology and Anthropology. Over the last few years, at McGill and, the University of Toronto, Pearlman, has taught and created, often in collaboration with Dean Don McLean of McGill, and currently, Toronto, a boatload of provocative new courses distributed amongst the Music, English, Religious Studies, Law and Management Faculties. Relentless brainstormer on the Future of Media in general, and, the ever tightening embrace of Music by Technology and Technology by Music in particular.

Member, National Recording Preservation Board (NRPB) of the Library of Congress.  Producer, creator, songwriter, manager and theorist for many of the most important bands and musical trends of the last 30 years: Blue Oyster Cult, Clash, Black Sabbath, Dictators, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Pavlov’s Dog, Dream Syndicate, Space Team Electra. In this capacity, he is variously blamed and/or lauded for the launch of such cultural trends as Heavy Metal, Occult Rock, Goth, Punk, New Wave.In all formats his recordings have sold in the range of 40 million copies. Described by the Billboard Producer’s Directory as “the Hunter Thompson of rock, a gonzo producer of searing intellect and vast vision.” Gonzo enough to be played by Christopher Walken in Saturday Night Live’s awesome skit on the making of “The Reaper” (which Pearlman produced for Blue Oyster Cult).

The Grateful Dead / John Oswald: Grayfolded - Transitive Axis Vinyl 3LP

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One Response to “Public Lecture by Sandy Pearlman at the Faculty of information, University of Toronto December 3”


  1. 1 The Clash, ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’ (01/25/79) | GreilMarcus.net

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