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“Pink Floyd: Sound, Sight and Structure.” Now that’s a Princeton University conference you can sign me up for.

One Ivy League graduate student has taken on one of the most iconic rock bands as the subject as work, and proven that it not only produces great music but smart music.

Gilad Cohen, a grad student in music composition, created an emotional map of the 1975 song “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” to explore how the 26-minute song thoroughly explores the five stages of grief.

From the opening free strains of the keyboard, which portray numbness, to the sounds of yearning, anger, mourning and acceptance, Cohen mapped out the sense of loss in the song, which was a tribute to Syd Barrett, the former bandleader who left in 1968 due to mental illness.

“Rock music is starting to have its day in the sun in musicological scholarship,” Scott Burnham, the Scheide Professor of Music History and Cohen’s dissertation adviser, said in a Princeton article. “Gilad’s work is timely, and it’s coming from a really great place — namely, his work as a musician and composer.”

James Guthrie, Pink Floyd’s producer and engineer was the keynote speaker at the academic conference, which was held last year, and Cohen said he was inspired by the reaction of students and scholars.

“They’re really starved for this kind of knowledge. They listen differently to the music now,” Cohen said in the write-up. “If I can expand someone’s enjoyment of music they’ve listened to throughout their lives, that’s a big thrill.”

Now, on to Led Zeppelin …

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Lilee Williams is a freelance journalist and scientific study junkie based in Georgia. Email her at
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