CT man building a replica of the Grateful Dead’s “Wall of Sound”

In 1974, the Grateful Dead, stalwarts of the counterculture music scene, unveiled their latest creation to the world – a three-stage PA system that would pioneer the advancement of concert sound amplification. modern.

Originally tested in 1973, it wasn’t until the following year that the “Wall of Sound” made its official touring debut at the Cow Palace in Daly City, California.

The rig, which at its peak included 600 individual loudspeakers and took an entire day to build, would see a rapid retirement by the end of the year as the costs associated with maintaining the “Wall” made virtually impossible to stay on the road, according to Vice.

“I don’t think it necessarily crossed their minds that it could nearly bankrupt them, which it did. I don’t think they gave much thought to gas prices in 1973 and ’74,” Anthony Coscia said. “They just kept going until it died out naturally,”

Nearly 50 years later, Coscia, a resident of Southbury and Deadhead who saw the band several times between 1988 and 1994, is on a mission to slowly build a fully functional life-size replica of the “Wall of Sound” – a model to that time.

“For me, the ‘Wall of Sound’ was basically the philosophy of the Grateful Dead. It was the physical representation of the metaphysical dead,” Coscia said. “When they did something, they did it because it was a direction they just wanted to explore to produce the best product or explore new frontiers.”

Coscia started its original model in early 2021, which was a short-range version of the “wall”. This version was essentially “a two-channel stereo” which Coscia said was more like “a toy” in which “no speaker costs more than a dollar”.

However, the small model, which became known as “Le Petit Mur De Son” (which roughly translates to “The Little Sound Wall”), quickly gained national attention, gaining coverage in the Wall Street Journal and InsideHook.

Coscia, a luthier who specializes in making guitars and guitar cabinets in the vein of Grateful Dead instruments, expected his fellow gear-focused Deadheads to cling to the build, but what happened to him? surprised, it was the thousands of fans who went to follow his support on social networks.

“I had no doubts that the community would embrace the project, but I think I misread the size of the community,” Coscia said. “[Some people] were probably not even born at the time the ‘Wall’ was used.

The Grateful Dead (left to right: Bill Kreutzmann, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh) perform May 25, 1974 at Santa Barbara Stadium in Santa Barbara, California with an early version of their Wall of Sound.

Ed Perlstein/Redferns

After the success of the first model, Coscia continued to build the fully functional neighborhood last summer; three of which currently exist. One model was sold privately, one model remains with Coscia and the last one was donated to Headcount, an organization that promotes voter registration, and raised $100,000, Coscia said.

Last October, one of the construction quarters was installed at Garcia’s at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, NY during a series of performances by Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh.

Deadheads looking to experience Coscia’s “Wall of Sound” in person will have the opportunity to do so on May 21 when local jam band supergroup Z3 perform their show Zappa Meets The Dead at The Bijou in Bridgeport.

Building the “sound wall”

Coscia’s next phase for the “Wall of Sound” is a half build of the original version. Coscia said it was “a fair path in the half-scale wall”, which should be 17 feet high and 35 feet wide.

He said he is currently working more than six hours a day off work in order to complete a half-scale version of the “Wall of Sound”. When complete, the half-scale version will be 100% functional and feature 24 input channels and 11 output channels, ensuring that “every musician will have their own dedicated speakers for themselves”.

The half-build is expected to cost around $100,000, according to Coscia, which he says is funded by private events and fundraising concerts, his own self-funding and donations made through his GoFundMe.

Coscia said the more he can fund the project, the less it will cost venues to have it. Ideally, Coscia said the intention of the half-scale release is to move it for monthly increments to concert halls across the country to give “big acts, regional acts and give local musicians the ‘opportunity to try to play through it’.

Construction is underway for the half-scale version of the "Wall of sound."

Construction is underway for the half-scale version of the “Wall of Sound”.

Contributed by Anthony Coscia

Additionally, Coscia hopes the half-build will only “further prove the concept that making a full-scale wall in a museum or venue would be ideal.”

This “community project”, as Coscia calls it, refers to the “ethos” of the Grateful Dead. For Coscia, this philosophy was best exemplified in the Dead’s determination to experiment in order to advance the band’s sound and longevity.

“Sometimes it will work. Sometimes that’s not the case. But when it works, it’s perfect,” Coscia said. “It’s a great way to live your life.”

Rocking for Charity

In the spirit of giving back to the music community, Coscia’s “Wall of Sound” will be used and displayed at Le Bijou at the end of the month for Z3’s performance.

The band consists of guitarist Tim Palmieri (Lotus, The Breakfast), drummer Bill Carbone (Max Creek, Melvin Sparks) and keyboardist Beau Sasser (Kung Fu). The band will perform a variety of Frank Zappa songs through the quarterly “Wall of Sound” release.

Z3 during rehearsals with Anthony Coscia "Wall of sound."

Z3 during rehearsals with “Wall of Sound” by Anthony Coscia.

Contributed by Jessica Pollison/BCS Interactive

The concert will also serve as a charity event, with 100% of proceeds going to music education in Connecticut. The two beneficiaries of the concert are SpreadMusicNow, a Redding-based organization that funds music education and promotes career development for aspiring musicians, and TeachRock, an organization started by Bruce Springsteen and multi-instrumentalist E-Street Band and ‘The Sopranos’ actor Stevie Van Zandt, which offers a free curriculum for classrooms looking to integrate the arts into other disciplines.

Carbone, who is the executive director of TeachRock, said proceeds from the concert will go directly to the “art integration program” in Connecticut classrooms. Carbone said TeachRock has partnered with the state Department of Education and is currently working on a pilot project with 15 districts that aims to work directly with teachers to find areas where art can help educators. better teach their subject.

“When I was a kid, there was the attitude of ‘learn this and one day you’re going to use it.’ Now kids have the internet in their pocket,” Carbone said. “Why should they listen to us?

Some of that material includes using Beyonce’s social media metrics to understand algebra charts and ratios and even building a working speaker that replicates “Wall of Sound” sound technology. Currently, there are over 300 free lesson plans that teachers can access online for their classrooms.

As for the “Wall of Sound,” Carbone said he was excited when he found out about Coscia’s project. “I love the dead. I grew up with this music,” Carbone said. “Immediately I was like, ‘I gotta meet this guy.'”

Carbone said the band had already practiced with the build quarterback before Bijou’s gig, which the drummer said made it sound like he was “swimming in sound.”

However, the “sound barrier” has a deeper meaning for Carbone.

For Carbone, the pioneer of the “Wall of Sound” was the Grateful Dead illustrating “the pursuit of a moment and the idea that every day is a new day”. On a scientific level, the work that went into making the “Wall of Sound” a revolutionary pioneer in modern concert sound design shows that science is “something you don’t need a lab coat for. “.

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