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For over half a century, the Grateful Dead and their fans have forged a complex relationship that has been shaped and sustained by a desire for (and a belief in) the “most authentic” recorded representation of a live musical performance. Released in 2017 and marketed as the fortieth anniversary of the Dead’s “magical show” at Cornell University, the box set May 1977: Get Shown the Light commemorates the aura and mystique of a concert that, in many ways, was made meaningful by recordings. The ideology of liveness that sustains the legacy of the Grateful Dead reflects many of the familiar stories, beliefs, and ideals that developed alongside the rise of recording technologies.

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