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Classical Notes

Symphonic Variations on Themes by Garcia

Posted at 2:13 PM on May 17, 2007 by Don Lee

"I grew up studying 'dead' composers, but the other kinds--the Stravinskys, the Beethovens and all those," composer Lee Johnson tells Reuters.

Now he's written a "Dead" Symphony. As in Grateful Dead. Johnson based the symphony on the loping, meandering riffs that the iconic Bay Area rock band perfected during its 30 years of existence. You can read all about it here.

Johnson is chair of the music department at La Grange College, La Grange, GA. His list of composing credits highlights his film and video scores.

Because I love both rock and classical music, I'm a sucker for efforts like this. And I do mean sucker, because symphonic rock seems doomed to failure or, at best, inconsequence. A composer in the classical tradition is almost bound to filter out the raw energy and repetition at the heart of rock. The samples of the Dead Symphony on Johnson's Web site give me a glimmer of hope, but not much more.