IN: Why do you think so many Jews
MH: Because it's a spiritual quest, a
journey. Judaism is like that. It's a spirit
dimension thing. I can understand why
[Jews] would love the Grateful Dead
because [the experience] opens up to the
Mickey Hart: "We're
part of this huge
til44.1A 4 .1..
Grateful Dead's Jewish drummer explores the musical universe.
eadheads, take note: Mickey Hart
is back in town.
The legendary Grateful Dead
drummer will appear at Detroit's Majestic
Theater on Monday, July 23 — and not
with just a greatest-hits show. But if you've
followed his career, you already knew that.
In a constant state of learning, the
Brooklyn-born and Long-Island-raised
Hart, 68, and his new band will perform
new music based on vibrations from
the universe. Scientists at California's
Lawrence Berkeley National and Meyer
Sound labs converted light waves from
space into sound waves, which Hart used
as the foundation for his new album,
Besides nearly three decades of inven-
tive drumming with the Dead, Hart has
lived a life of musical exploration:
• He has written four books on music.
• His Planet Drum partnership with
percussionists from around the world
received the first-ever Grammy for Best
World Music Album.
• He composed music performed by 100
percussionists for the opening of the 1996
• He orchestrated a record-breaking
5,000-person drum circle in northern
• He co-wrote the distinctive drumbeat
to the Volcano at the Mirage Hotel in Las
• He has composed scores and themes
for movies and TV shows, including
Apocalypse Now, The Twilight Zone and a
Walter Cronkite documentary.
• He addressed a U.S. Senate Committee
on Aging on the healing value of drum-
ming and rhythm on afflictions associated
• He serves on the board of "Music and
the Brain" at the Institute for Music and
Neurologic Function at Beth Abraham
Hospital in New York City.
• Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
released a 25-album Mickey Hart
Collection; six recordings form the
Endangered Music Project, a partnership
between Hart and the American Follclife
Center at the Library of Congress to pre-
serve recordings from musical traditions
Prior to his appearance, Hart took a few
moments away from work to talk with the
Jewish News about his latest project.
IN: Your new sound is so intriguing
that it defies description. How would
you describe it?
MH: Well, I don't know how to describe
it exactly myself, but it's made up of rock
'rf roll, music that we know, mixed with
the sounds of the cosmos, the legitimate
sounds of epic events of the universe from
the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago to cur-
rent sounds from Earth, moon and sun.
It's a sampling of the sonic history of the
universe, dancing with the music of rock
IN: How did you capture the sounds
of the universe?
MH: I'm not a scientist; I'm a drummer,
but I worked with scientists who taped the
light waves from the universe. Anything
that moves up there has a rhythm, a
vibration, a wave form. Radio telescopes
capture that radiation and change it into
sound, using computers; then I play with
it. I compose to it and with it. Every part
of the universe sings its own tune. The
universe is its own instrument. We are
part of that huge instrument.
That's what I've been investigating
— the sounds and the meaning of what
these vibrations have to do with us here
on Earth — because we are vibratory in
nature. All of these vibrations are coming
at us, through us, around us. We're part
of this huge vibratory universe. Sound is
what makes me understand things. That's
what I've done my whole life. This is that
kind of journey.
IN: Why the Mysterium Tremendum
MH: It's a term used by scholars,
anthropologists and religious people. It's
the tremendous mystery — whatever it
may be — when you discover it: the awe
of it when you approach the sacred and
your feeling toward it.
IN: How did growing up Jewish influ-
ence your life, your music and your
MH: I was born Jewish, but I wasn't
really brought up Jewish. I didn't really
experience any profound revelation in
Judaism growing up. I went to Hebrew
school like everyone else, and I read things
I didn't really understand. It was confus-
ing to me. That's because it was a different
God [from] I guess I was meant to pray to.
It had nothing to do with the Torah or any
To me, if there was one creational
moment in this universe, it was an
arrhythmic event. Belief systems are cre-
ated to explain the universe around us
— all very great stories and mythology.
Hebrew was my first language in high
school. I took Hebrew as a language. But
I was kind of delinquent. I wanted to be
around music. I didn't grow up exactly as
Mommy wanted me to. She would have
much rather [preferred] I become a rabbi
than a maniac drummer.
IN: But you do have a spiritual
approach to music?
MH: Yes, I do. If you stay in something
so long, you start to realize what it's really
all about. It is all about the spirit. And
if you study it long enough, you start to
come up with some kind of cosmology
that makes sense, and that's what hap-
pened. You play your whole life, and it
realizes itself every day.
IN: What can you tell us about the
famous Grateful Dead seders for
MH: We did have one. I think it was
at Madison Square Garden or Nassau
Coliseum. I can't remember exactly, but we
did have one, and it was really fun.
IN: When did you first start thinking
about the cosmic, universal nature of
MH: At age 3 or 4, I was standing out
in a rainstorm and letting the raindrops
hit me. It was music from the heavens.
Grandma said, "God [is] crying?' I was fas-
cinated with that and with the sounds and
movement of the city.
That's what really got me. It was over-
whelming my senses. And the best way to
realize that was drumming. I was into the
rhythm of things. Drums provided a great
way to make a rhythm.
IN: Any special memories of Detroit?
MH: We love Detroit. We've played
there a lot. I remember Cobo. We rocked it
IN: Tell us about your band. Do your
bandmates share your sense of musical
MH: Yes. I didn't want this to be a
short-lived thing. I wanted to develop this
deeper, and I've found these marvelous
musicians who want to go out there with
me and explore the cosmos sonically. It's a
great band. It really is. It's on fire. It has a
wild, throbbing, pulsing kind of vibe to it,
mixed with the music we know and love.
IN: What's next for you after this
MH: I think I'm going to go into the
micro world — the neurology of music.
I want to study how rhythm affects the
brain, stems cells and DNA. I've been
focusing on the universe and the macro
world. I want to see what the cellular world
looks and sounds like.
IN: You're always learning. Aren't
MH: I'm a student. I'm a work in prog-
ress. And I'm having a great time doing it.
It's the way I want to go through life. ❑
The Mickey Hart Band performs
at 8 p.m. Monday, July 23, at the
Majestic Theater, 4120 Woodward,
Detroit. $25. www.majesticdetroit.
July 19 • 2012