On his “chat show,” Kevin Pollak has told the story more than once of a bit by the comedy troupe of Barry Levinson and Craig T. Nelson from some unspecified moment in the late 1960s or early 1970s when earnest folk duos were dominating coffee houses up and down the west coast. For one of their “songs,” Nelson and Levinson simply tuned their acoustic guitars for nine minutes. According to Levinson, after a minute or two the audience would cotton to the gag and kind of murmur in an abashed way. Around minute four, however, the audience would grow restless and hostile, as if to say, “NO. You are NOT doing this!” But sticktoitiveness has its benefits, after weathering the rough patch in the middle, more often than not the audience would find it even funnier than at the outset. Every time they did the gag, it would take everything that Levinson and Nelson had not to bail on the bit during the tough middle minutes. Hanging in there usually paid dividends, even if it was tough in the moment.
One wonders how “Tuning ’77,” a 90-minute supercut of the Grateful Dead tuning their instruments while touring in 1977, would go over if it were played live. For this unusual audio file, Atlanta-based artist Michael David Murphy sifted through a number of Grateful Dead live recordings on the Internet Archive that surely would tax my patience after ... well, twenty minutes maybe. And yet I find that listening to “Tuning ’77” is kind of pleasing in a background-music kind of way.
As Murphy states, the audio file is “a seamless audio supercut of an entire year of the Grateful Dead tuning their instruments, live on stage. Chronologically sequenced, this remix incorporates every publicly available recording from 1977, examining the divide between audience expectation and performance anxiety.” “Tuning ‘77” is available on archive.org, which also hosts the files that constituted its source material.
Here it is, go crazy:
via AV Club