Searching for the Sound

“In my view, it’s always been one of the functions of art to provide experiences that evoke danger and uncertainty, and to resolve those uncertainties into a higher perspective that embraces the paradox of chaos and order.” – Phil Lesh

So I finished a book! I’m sure I’ll eventually write a whole post on my feelings toward that unique and somewhat uncomfortable feeling itself, but for now I just want to talk about Phil Lesh and his autobiographical Searching For the Sound.

I liked the book. I mostly like all books, and I liked this one because it offered a unique perspective on an era that I’m endlessly interested in. Phil Lesh talks about the beginnings of the band while throwing in firsthand details about the mood of the country, of California, and of the band members throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

I think being able to play music myself would have made this book a little more interesting for me. The focus of the book is the music, obviously, which left something to be desired as far as interesting characters and relationship development goes.

It was also kind of a strange experience to read such casual mentions of hard drugs. It probably goes without saying, but Phil Lesh was (maybe still is) a total hippie. I’ve read books with explicit drug references before, too (Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk do it well) but in those novels, the drugs are symbolic of something else, or are secondary to the characters, serving the purpose to move their development along. In Lesh’s case, the drugs are synonymous with the music, and the two exist almost in relation to one another.

It’s interesting to read about them in that context, but it was also one of the unsettling parts of the books. Plenty of mention of the “collective unconscious” and the “shared consciousness” of the Grateful Dead as a group. My first inclination was to laugh, until I realized that he is completely serious, and that is really his belief system.

I guess one of the best parts of reading is learning new perspectives, different ways of viewing the world. No matter what, music always sounds better after reading extensively about the artists, so I’m looking forward to some enlightened Grateful Dead listening.

phil lesh

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