I also then remembered that Phil Lesh recommended Kontakte, in the same breath as Ives' 4th Symphony and Coltrane's Africa/Brass, when asked for some pieces of music that deadheads should be checking out. Stockhausen was a big influence on Lesh and the Dead, but just saying that is kind of a truism: Stockhausen was a big influence on pretty much everybody. The Stockhausen/Dead connection is worth some deeper excavating, but I'm not going down that rabbit hole right now. Later, maybe.
After my friend left, I was in a electronic state of mind, so I had a nightcap with the atmospherically weird and wonderful "Water Torture" from Herbie Hancock's Crossings, the second album by his groundbreaking band Mwandishi. Then I also remembered another off-hand link between the Dead and Stockhausen, via Hancock himself. A few months ago I'd read his new-ish autobiography, Possibilities, and there's this bit when he's talking about the first time he heard Stockhausen:
"When I first heard those sounds [Stockhausen's earlier piece Geseng der Junglinge], I felt drawn to them, though I didn't really investigate how he'd created them, since I wasn't interested in making electronic music myself. Stockhausen's work was often categorized as classical, but it fell on a continuum of avant-garde music that intrigued me, a continuum that stretched from Stravinsky and Bartok all the way to Jerry Garcia." (Hancock, 104-105)OK then! It's not often you see ol' Jer casually mentioned in the same company as Stockhausen, Stravinksy, and Bartok. It's even more surprising because Hancock mentions throughout his book that he very rarely kept up with what was happening in rock & roll at all (although nowadays he's no stranger to crossover collaborations with all kinds of rock/pop stars). The connections between Hancock and the Dead are actually pretty thin: I'm sure some of the band were aware of Hancock's music, and the Garcia/Saunders band shared a bill with Hancock at least once, but I think that's about it in terms of actual links. A couple of other amusing things jumped out at me while reading Hancock's book, though:
- Besides being a serious gadget-head, Hancock was also a taper: he taped a lot of Miles Davis Quintet gigs on his own (and tells a funny story about how Miles would scowl at him as he crawled under the piano to set up his mics as the gig was starting). Hancock says that his soundman recorded most performances by the astounding Mwandishi band (circa 1970) and that the band would relisten to them obsessively, but all those tapes were stolen out of their van one night in NYC. I guess that explains why all of the circulating recordings of the group are from 1971 and later.
- The Mwandishi group lugged around a $10,000 state-of-the-art portable quadrophonic sound system (circa 1971) so as to not be stuck with whatever old PA the club happened to have. I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing this was still relatively rare for most touring musicians and unheard of for a jazz group in 1971. Another book on Hancock's Mwandishi period (Bob Gluck's You'll Know When You Get There) also talks about the extremely high quality of Hancock's PA system. Sound familiar, anyone?
- Carlos Santana was invited to play on the Crossings album, but he couldn't hang with the music.