By Derek Miles
It all begins with beat one for Mickey Hart. From his musical upbringing and rock and roll roots with the Grateful Dead, to his lifelong study of world music and the rhythms of cultures around the globe, Hart has devoted his life to the infinite exploration of percussion.
Recent years have continued to show Hart as a busy touring musician, yet also as an artist who has integrated his field into the research of other professions. His collaborative efforts with neurologist Dr. Adam Gazzaley, physics nobel prize winner George Smoot, and NASA, have resulted in some groundbreaking projects within the past few years. Hart’s latest findings have kindled the creative engine of his new band and the musical foundation of his newest release, Mysterium Tremendum.
“One cannot stay the same. One must change with the times,” Hart said during a recent interview with The Marquee. He continued to explain that the path he started on with the Grateful Dead can certainly be recognized in the music he plays today. And rightfully so; being a member of any band for over two-and-a-half decades would obviously have influence in shaping a musician, let alone a band that were as close and toured as extensively as the Grateful Dead. Although a huge part of Hart’s style was developed during his time with the Dead, that was merely the tip of the iceberg. “I view myself as a work in progress,” Hart said. He lives in a ceaseless state of evolution as a musician and views stagnation as the artist’s kryptonite.
Hart’s new band — which includes Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools, Grammy winning percussionist and longtime bandmate Sikiru Adepoju, Tony Award winning vocalist Crystal Monee Hall, singer and multi-instrumentalist Joe Bagale, drummer Greg Schutte, guitarist Gawain Matthews, and keyboardist/sound engineer Jonah Sharp — was formed around the concept of sonifying the universe; taking light and radio waves emitted by the celestial bodies of the cosmos and transducing them into sound waves. “I was looking for musicians that were passionate about playing with wave forms from deep space. I looked to the willing, because not everybody would buy into the idea of spending a day on Saturn,” Hart said.
The research and collaboration Hart has done with NASA and physicist George Smoot has finally started to come to fruition. Vast amounts of wave data collected by radio telescopes around the earth have been digitized and transformed into sound waves via special equipment. Hart is now able to use these sounds from the universe and incorporate them into the music he plays live on stage. “There’s a giant orchestra up there [in space]. I’d like not just to know about it, but to be able to dance with it,” said Hart.
This is the sentiment that Hart has engaged in with his new band and record. Mysterium Tremendum was recorded live in the studio and contains all original material revolving around the literally spacey soundscapes. Yet as if there were no further place to go in search of new sounds than space itself, Hart has expanded this territory in the other direction, too, going from the macro to the micro.
Since looking skyward for new landscapes in sound, Hart has turned to the circuitry of brain wave function to explore the possibilities of the rhythmic activity of the brain. His work with neurologist Dr. Adam Gazzaley has sparked the development of a unique technology that allows brain activity to be both visualized and sonified. Hart had originally planned to “play his brain” live on this tour, but instead will be playing samples of his brain activity. “You’ll be able to see my brain on a screen, and I’ll be able to play my brain. You’ll be able to hear the sounds of my brain in the context of a rock and roll band,” Hart said. “I’ll be interacting with the master clock.” With this in mind (pun intended), Hart’s new band may just be the most innovative group around in terms of multimedia performance.
The band incorporates the acoustic with the electric, the analog with the digital, and the auditory with the visual. The band’s upcoming tour will also add a DJ and four more percussion players known as the African Showboys. “The band’s amazing. It’s savage!” Hart said enthusiastically.
On top of Hart’s new album and the exciting changes happening in his band, he plans to soon release a new track titled “Jersey Shore.” Funds raised by the song will all be contributed to the rebuilding effort in New Jersey. Hart was inspired to write the tune after seeing Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen share their sincere thoughts and memories during the benefit concert for Hurricane Sandy. “It’s about the loss of place,” Hart said, “but it’s a hopeful song.” Hart went on to note that this was one of the fastest songs he had ever written. “It was one of those impulses.”
:: Fox Theater :: February 28 ::
:: Oriental Theater :: March 1 ::
Recommended if you Like:
• Grateful Dead
• Dead Can Dance