Last year, Mickey Hart, former drummer of the Grateful Dead, brought the rhythms of the universe to Asheville, N.C. having used light waves from across the space and time to create the music of “Mysterium Tremendum.”
Mickey Hart Band with Tea Leaf Trio are set to perform Tuesday at The Orange Peel in Asheville, N.C.
This year, with “Superorganism,” he brings the sounds of the “inner orchestra,” music shaped from the rhythmic patterns of human brain waves.
Before explaining the science, Hart offered a reminder: “This is a dance band. It pulses and throbs. It’s a visceral experience. Your pelvis is moving. You can feel the music rising up your pant legs.”
Hart, who recently turned 70, has never stopped pushing himself or his music. No two projects, no two shows ever sound the same, yet they all share his ever-present sense of musical mischief and insatiable curiosity.
“Superorganism” is no different.
“It’s like learning a new language that’s totally unfamiliar to you,” Hart said. “There’s rhythm in the brain. There’s rhythm in DNA and stem cells. There are heart rhythms. But to be able to recognize those rhythms, to be able to move in sync with them, that’s a whole different thing.”
Despite the fact that they are our own patterns, the patterns that make us who we are, the the patterns of our cells don’t move like patterns we’re familiar overtly with.
“Until you explore it,” Hart said.
That’s what “Superorganism” is for Hart — an exploration of the unfamiliar, a journey into the rhythms of human body.
“In ‘Mysterium’ and ‘Superorganism’ you are approaching the mystery of life, of the cosmos,” Hart said. “It’s not all happy. There is a lot of chaos out there in the world, in the song of the universe.”
Indeed, “Mysterium” can be disturbing in places, while Superorganism has a much more entrancing quality to it.
As Hart explored in “Mysterium,” the great “down beat” of the universe occurred “13.8 billion years ago with that arrhythmic event, that moment of chaos that spawned the planets, the sun, the earth, the moon, us. All of those vibrations and all of those energies and all of those wave forms created us right here.”
In other words, Hart said, all of that chaos created all of this order, and “Superorganism” moves with those beautiful patterns more so than with the chaos of the universe, with the balance of a nature created than with a universe taking form.
“Quantum physics describe the universe as giant membranes moving back and forth,” Hart said. “Like giant drum heads.”
But there are other instruments involved here, as well.
“When I got to Superorganism,” said Hart, “I realized we had instruments now to read brain wave function and heart rhythm and stem cells and DNA. There were scientists out there who were really interested in finding out the sonic components of this micro-world. I’d been through the macro (with “Mysterium”) and then I wound up in the micro and it all fell together.”
Hart had been after this for a long time but now he had the tools. The cutting edge “cap,” which he wears on stage and which allows him to see and hear his “alpha, beta, theta waves in real time,” didn’t exist nine months ago.
“I’m seeing my brain fire,” Hart said. “And I’m seeing the patterns, which are gorgeous. Very much like the roots of the tree, that’s what the mind looks like when it’s firing. Or like a city lit up at night. The brain is rhythm central. It’s the master clock. It’s everything.”
By watching and listening to his brain in real time, Hart is able to converse with it, to speak — or, at least, to learn to speak — it’s language.
“I’m trying to dance with it,” he said. “This is not some carny trick. I am actually looking at my brain, the master clock, and that makes me happy.”
And for the last 50 years, when Mickey Hart has fun on stage, audiences have a tendency to be happy, to dance along, to feel “weightless” and free, to fall in sync with the universe, to dance on the edge and smile at what they find there.
-By Jeremy Jones