'Grateful' Symphony Debuts

Baltimore to unveil work based on various Dead classics
By Kate Rockwood,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 27, 2008 2:00 PM CDT
Composer Lee Johnson poses in the music department at LaGrange College. Johnson, a classical music composer-conductor, has constructed an entire symphony from selected Grateful Dead songs.    (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
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(Newser) – The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will debut this week an opera derived from the music of the Grateful Dead, on what would have been Jerry Garcia’s 66th birthday. Titled Dead Symphony No. 6, each movement goes truckin' on a different Dead song. The Grateful Dead is “long overdue to be taken as a phenomenon beyond the music itself,” composer Lee Johnson told NPR.

“What I found by studying Jerry Garcia's songs is that there was a master craftsman at work; with the lyrics and with the message of the song, it would embody enough asymmetry or turns of melody or harmony that left the door open for someone to come in and redirect it,” Johnson said.