Improvisational Structure in "Dark Star," 1969-1972.

Slate's Culture Blog
May 6 2011 11:16 AM

Improvisational Structure in "Dark Star," 1969-1972.

Last March, the Atlantic's Joshua Green wrote an excellent article about the growing body of academic work on The Grateful Dead. The field of Dead Studies encompasses a surprisingly wide range of disciplines: musicologists, of course, have taken an interest, but so have sociologists, who often focus on the band's legendarily loyal fans. (The best professor ever at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro once brought a class on tour with the band so her students could observe the tight-knit Deadhead community up close.) As Green notes, even business schools have studied the Dead, examining everything from the band's lucrative merchandising arm to the economics of allowing fans to record and trade concert tapes.

Late last month, the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association held its annual conference in San Antonio. The PCA/ACA is comprised of "a group of scholars and enthusiasts who study popular culture," and this year's gathering highlighted Dead scholarship. Judging from the panels and papers presented, Dead Studies has never been livelier. As a devoted fan myselfand a sometime subscriber to Dead Letters, the premiere journal of Dead scholarshipI find many of the paper titles listed below highly tantalizing. My favorite, however, was presented in a session dedicated to popular culture and pedagogy: "Semester of the Living Dead: Using the Grateful Dead to Teach U.S. Social History, 1945-2000." Its author, from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is one Robert Weir.

/blogs/browbeat/2011/05/06/improvisational_structure_in_dark_star_1969_1972/jcr:content/body/slate_image
Advertisement

Literary Analysis and the Grateful Dead Songbook 
Session Chair: Nicholas Meriwether 

"Terrapin Station"The storyteller makes no choice
Peter Apfl, University of Vienne 

Sublimated Sexual Anxiety in the "Scoundrel Songs" of the Grateful Dead
Rick Wallach, University of Miami 

The element of chance in the lyrics of Robert Hunter 
Ulrich Rois, Universität Wien

The Dead and the Law 
Session Chair: Gary Burnett 

"We Can Share What We Got of Yours": Reflections on the Copyright Paradox in the Grateful Dead Community
Susan Balter-Reitz, Montana State University, Billings 

Going Right to Something: The Grateful Dead's Musical, Rhetorical, and Political Intersections 
Beth Carroll, Appalachian State University 

The Grateful Dead and Legal Scholarship: Dizzy with Possibilities
Joseph Tomain, University of Louisville, Brandeis School of Law 

The Politics of the Dead 
Session Chair: Natalie Dollar 

"A Band Beyond Description": The Grateful Dead as a Representation of Crevecoeur's "New American Man" 
Heath Scott, Hampton University 

"Let Fate Decide the Rest:" The Grateful Dead, Quietism, and the Politics of Utopia 
Peter Richardson, San Francisco State University 

Grateful Dead Musicology
Session Chair: David Malvinni 

Improvisational structure in "Dark Star," 1969-1972
Graeme Boone, Ohio State University 

Performing collective improvisation: The Grateful Dead's "Dark Star"
Rich Pettengill, Lake Forest College 

The Big Bang and the Formation of "Space" 
Shaugn O'Donnell, The City College and Graduate Center, CUNY 

Approaches to the Phish/Grateful Dead Connection 
Session Chair: Christian Crumlish

From "Dark Star" to Cherry Garcia: Four Subframes in Rolling Stone that Link Phish to the Grateful Dead 
Jordan McClain, Temple University 

Prep School Hippies and Hip School Preppies: Classed Acts, Collective Memory, and Phish Scene Identity 
Elizabeth Yeager, University of Kansas 
 
Dimensions and Directions in Grateful Dead Music
Session Chair: Shaugn O'Donnell  
 
Laying it down-Or Not: Phil Lesh and the Art of Improvisational Rock Bass 
Michael Kaler, York University 

Letting It Grow: Jamming and the X Factor in The Grateful Dead, 1972-1974 
David Malvinni, Santa Barbara City College 

Voyaging Furthur into the Post-Garcia Universe
Michael Parrish, San Jose State University 

Philosophy and the Dead
Session Chair: Dennis Rothermel

Dionysus Revisited: Collective Improvisation, Presence, and Why Everybody's Dancin'
Stan Spector, Modesto College

Forces Torn Loose from the Axis: Collective Common Sense as a Driving Factor in Group Improvisation
James Tuedio, California State University, Stanislaus

The Grateful Dead and the Daemonic: The Popularization of Inwardness
Jaime Baldovinos, Independent Scholar

Social Science and the Grateful Dead Phenomenon
Session Chair: Rebecca Adams

"Head Set": An exploration of Deadhead identity
Natalie Dollar, Oregon State University-Cascades

Digitally Dead: How Podcasts, Facebook and Other Aspects of Web 20 are Facilitating Online Community-Building among Today's Deadheads
Timothy Ray, West Chester University of Pennsylvania

Human Error and Creative Variations in the Music of the Grateful Dead: "Doin' that Rag" (1969)
Mark Mattson, Fordham University

The Business of the Dead
Session Chair: Barry Barnes

A Book Review of Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History
Barry Barnes, Nova Southeastern University

The Books of the Dead: Business Lessons from the Deadhead Book Trade
Hamlin  Endicott, Grateful Dead Books LLC

The Grateful Dead's Marketing Strategy in 1969: A 21st Century Program
Randy Harrison, Emerson College

John Swansburg is Slate's editorial director. Follow him on Twitter.