Grateful Dead's "Dark Star"

Topics: Grateful Dead, Semiotics, Umberto Eco Pages: 2 (681 words) Published: October 30, 2005
Steven Skaggs' essay on the Grateful Dead's "Dark Star" and how it is an example of transcendental aesthetics put a new meaning to the way I listen to the Dead's music. Skaggs goes deeply into semiotic theory, and how the song "Dark Star" has an underlying journey within itself. Though I had never heard of semiotics before reading Skaggs' essay, I think that I now understand its basis. Semiotics is the study of signs in their capacity as "ways of knowing". This means that certain words, sounds, and characteristics all have underlying meanings, and that is what is studied in semiotics.

Umberto Eco, the author of The Theory of Semiotics, combines the semiotic theory with a branch of aesthetic theory, the aesthetics of transcendence. With aesthetics being the philosophy of art, the aesthetics of transcendence is a theory that causes you to "go beyond" normal life experiences. This theory is called the aesthetic experience, which is all caused by art.

The well-known linguist, Roman Jakobson, outlined how verbal text could be a communicative tool. One way of communication is called the "poetic" function. Jakobson said that a verbal text reaches the "poetic" function by being ambiguous and self-focusing. The type of ambiguity that relates to the Grateful Dead's music, more specifically "Dark Star", is stylistic ambiguity. This type of ambiguity represents a certain aspect of something, but does so in an unconventional pattern of behavior. This means that when there is an action done outside the normal pattern of how it is usually done, attention is attracted. The Grateful Dead's style of music is heavily related to this concept. The improvisational style that they play in is outside the normal pattern that is created in live music. By playing this kind of music, the Grateful Dead captures the audience, who is forced to pay attention to the details of the song.

After reading Skaggs' essay, I listened to and watched five or six different performances of "Dark...
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