I failed Music in Grade 8. Mr. Clements said I was a “capable student in theory class, but very little effort (was) shown all year instrumentally” resulting in a 47% final grade.It was the only class that I failed in school – except of course for Grade 13 Physics which doesn’t count because I didn’t go to class. (The teacher was confused: “I find it difficult to understand why a student would let himself get into a situation like this” and awarded (?) me a final grade of 21%.)I know nothing about performing music (clearly) but I am an obsessive listener. Music is magical and mysterious, all-consuming, so much more so because of its temporal nature, overwhelmingly there, and then…gone. Music is a dream I remember and must get back to.I have great regard for so many musicians – Alan Sparrowhawk (Low), Robert Pollard (GBV), Laetitia Sadier (Stereolab) and Mozart (eponymous) to cite a few – but nothing compares to the collective of The Grateful Dead. This group played over 2300 concerts spanning 1967-1995 and acquired a devoted following, worshipful during the performances as everything was offered from psychedelic (China Cat Sunflower) and traditional folk (I Know Your Rider) to country (Me & My Uncle) and rock ‘n roll (Sugar Magnolia), covering practically everyone in between (Not Fade Away), and weaving it all through the holy and endless jam…but the thing about The Grateful Dead for me isn’t so much the songs, singing along, as how remarkable it is for making my mind work.Truth be told, I was stuck as to how to write this blog and listened to The Grateful Dead’s Augusta, Maine concert (October 12, 1984) to get myself on track. That’s where the idea of posting my failing grades came from, citing the Augusta show, indeed focusing back on how the music affects my mind, not to mention helping me fix a problematic scene in My Bad Side, structuring a Middle School lesson on Film Theory and remembering to call my therapist.
The funny thing is that the members of Grateful Dead, well known for the remarkable stage camaraderie, are not so well regarded for their inter-personal skills. (Read Dennis McNally’s A Long Strange Trip for more on that.) It’s unnerving thinking about what a personal wreck Jerry Garcia was; indeed it is profoundly sad, especially knowing that he was in the thralls of heroin for the Augusta concert cited above. What do I do with that? The music is so wonderful, so crystalline and pure; it is of another world. Is that what I should have tried for my Grade 8 clarinet test? That sure would have shown Mr. Clements. Only if.