In 1977, NASA sent music into outer space aboard the Voyager Spacecraft. Now it’s coming back, in a way, thanks to Mickey Hart. Next Monday, Hart will bring his cosmic sounds and the Mickey Hart Band, to the Tower Theatre in support of Mysterium Tremendum, his first studio album in five years and follow up to 2007’s Grammy-winning Global Drum Project. For many Bend deadheads, the stars are aligning for this performance, which happens to fall on the 35th anniversary of the Grateful Dead’s seminal performance at Cornell University in New York. The “5/7/77 Cornell” concert is regularly included in any, “best Grateful Dead show” discussion.
“This music is both whole earth and celestial music,” pronounces Hart. “It’s something I wanted to explore. I wanted to discover, uncover and retrieve what I wanted to turn into sounds.”
This exploration, along with a fascination with the mystery of space and time, lead him to the cosmic sounds that have been put together by scientists looking for the “songs” of the universe.
“The sounds,” Hart goes on to explain, “are light waves generated from the planets, the stars, from the epic events that formed our world, the entire universe.”
Hart expanded upon his initial dream to travel from global rhythms to cosmic and universal rhythms. He used “sonification” to transform the universe’s light reverberations into the rhythms that make up the backbone of the new album.
“Sonification” maps information the same way visualization does, only using sound instead of imagery. Recognizing the importance of “sonification” in a multi-media world, Mickey Hart has brought this science to rock 'n' roll.
“You don’t get many calls to work with Mars or Venus. It’s very spiritual and unusual,” proclaims Hart.
Blues Band–Jam band–Hall of Fame–Grammy
Hart, who began his career as a drummer for a hippie blues band, has continually taken his desire to grow as a musician to new heights.
Upon Jerry Garcia’s death and the dissolution of the Grateful Dead, Hart turned to the so-called “world music” genre. (Isn’t all music world music?)
Since then, he has traveled the world collecting percussion instruments and archiving sounds. His lifelong interest in ethnomusicology earned him gigs at both the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institute as a board member and archivist. He has set himself on a lifelong journey studying and promoting the powers of rhythm.
To say the man knows a little something about music is a drastic understatement.
The Band–Robert Hunter–The Band reprise
Hart’s belief that, “The answer is in the rhythm in things,” caused him to search out musicians who were interested in forging into uncharted musical territory.
“The band was handpicked since this is not your normal project,” says Hart. “I looked for musicians for over a year.” Then, he sought out an old friend and former Grateful Dead lyricist, Robert Hunter, to put words to the beats. The result is a coming together of musical minds with a common vision.
At the moment, The Mickey Hart Band is an eight-piece group of accomplished musicians turning intergalactic sounds into danceable music. The band’s “Above the Clouds Tour” is crisscrossing the country playing festivals and theater shows alike.
Holding down the back end with Hart are Grammy-winning percussionist Sikiru Adepoju, drummer Ian Herman, and Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools.
Guitarist Gawain Matthews and keyboardist/producer Ben Yonas round out the band. Tony Award-winning vocalist Crystal Monee and singer Tim Hockenberry collectively bring Robert Hunter’s words to life.
It was this same group of musicians, aided by Northern California musicians and longtime collaborators Steve Kimock, Reed Mathis, Zakir Hussain, and Giovanni Hidalgo who originally brought Hart’s interstellar dream to reality in his Sonoma County studio.
“I had to make sure they were ready for the journey. It’s a dance band—a trance band—and it’s playing at a very high level now,” Hart happily announces.
“I have worked on more difficult projects, but not as thoughtful,” explains Hart. “The universe is infinite. You can get lost out there.”
The Mickey Hart Band is pulling surprises from the Grateful Dead catalog, but don’t expect to see note-for-note regurgitations of 1970’s Dead. Most of the tunes are reworked to play to the band’s strengths and allow for the evolution of the songs. You can also expect the Mickey Hart Band to perform something from Mickey’s next project, “sonifying” the Golden Gate Bridge.
Intergalactic light waves and ethnomusicology aside, Monday night’s, “5/7/12 Tower Theatre” show should be one for the ages.
Mickey Hart Band
$41 All ages.
7pm, Mon. May 7
Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall