Anonymous yet personal, this Blog chronicles
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Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Rock star Phil Lesh (b. 1940) who played electric bass in The Greatful Dead for 30 years started out as an avant garde composer and free jazz musician. He studied with Luciano Berio at Mills College where one of his classmates was the minimalist composer Steve Reich.

Lesh is still a big fan of new music. He befriended, supported (via his Rex Foundation), and interviewed the composer Elliott Carter in January of 1994. In 1991 the Rex Foundation subsidized a recording of Carter's orchestral music.

Returning to his roots, Lesh conducted the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Stravinsky and Carter's "A Celebration (of 100 X 150 Notes)."

Even during his years with The Greatful Dead...
"Phil turned his band mates onto works by the likes of Charles Ives and Elliott Carter and helped nudge the Dead into areas of experimentation and adventure which characterized the band's work throughout its history." (excerpt from the Grateful Dead Almanac)

Just like me, Lesh made the pilgrimage to Tanglewood last July to attend the five-day Elliott Carter Festival. Oliver Knussen and the TMC Orchestra delivered a spectacular performance of Carter’s massive Concerto for Orchestra, and Lesh reportedly dropped by afterward to congratulate the bass section of the orchestra.

I guess that makes Phil Lesh and myself "Carterheads."