May 30, 2009

That Music Instinct

Daniel Levitin, professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience and music at McGill University is hosting a new two hour documentary on the science of music: The Music Instinct: Science and Song. It airs on PBS on June 24th and investigates music's "fundamental physical structure, its biological, emotional, and psychological impact, its brain altering and healing powers, and its role in human evolution."
Levitin is the author of The World in Six Songs (Dutton 2008) and This Is Your Brain On Music (Dutton Penguin 2006). According to Levitin "evolution may have selected individuals who were able to use nonviolent means like dance and music to settle disputes, and songs also serve as memory aides and as records of our lives and legends."
Before hitting academia Levitin worked as a session musician, a commercial recording engineer, a live sound engineer, and a record producer for, among many bands, the Grateful Dead.

Attics of My Life

As archivists we are always so indebted to those folk out there who have the instinct and the eye to save ephemeral items of seemingly little value, and later to gift what has become an important "collection" to libraries, historical societies, and museums. Currently on display in Berkeley's Veterans Memorial building is a Berkeley Historical Society exhibit Up Against the Wall-- a visual array of posters from such a collection. The late Michael Rossman, a Bay area political activist collected approximately 25,000 posters documenting concerts, rallies, political campaigns, and other social causes and movements from 1965 to 1974. His friend Lincoln Cushing, a librarian, arranged for 39 of these to be seen in this exhibit, including a 1966 handbill from a May 14th Veterans Memorial Hall dance with the Grateful Dead. The exhibit runs through September 26th.

Not Fade Away

Now that The Dead tour is over, all the reviews have come in and it looks like everyone, including the band had a good old time. One aspect that critics seem astonished by is the youth of the attendees. (Although this doesn't seem surprising to us given that a Spring Quarter class "Music of the Grateful Dead" taught here at UCSC has enrollment of over 400!) We did enjoy the May 11th review by August Brown and Jeff Weiss in the LA Times. They reviewed the Los Angeles Forum show and quoted 13 year old Emma Cleveland from Ridgecrest CA. whose entire family had driven over 150 miles to attend the concert; "The Dead's music keeps people feeling alive and happy. It's amazing music; every time you hear it, it puts you in a good mood."