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October 11, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
The pairing of a former Grateful Dead drummer and a Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist might seem peculiar. But this relationship was the genesis of Mysterium Tremendum, the Mickey Hart Band’s new album. Mickey Hart famously made his bones as part of the Grateful Dead’s “rhythm devils,” the drummers who came to embody the band’s legendary, infectious spirit. But Hart, 69, has undertaken a new musical endeavor, one he is currently presenting on tour: an auditory personification of the universe.
Hart teamed up with astrophysicist George Smoot, who records images from outer space such as solar flares and the rings of Saturn and then converts them into sound waves. These resulting noises, which are haunting and hypnotic, serve as the backbone of Hart’s new album.
Where: The Blue Note
When: Saturday, 9 p.m.
“Basically, at the core of the whole band are these seed sounds of the universe, and that’s what influenced the words and the guitar and everything,” bassist Dave Schools says. “It’s the kernel of sonic truth at the heart of every song.”
If it seems like a bit of an audacious or eccentric objective for a percussionist, perhaps it is. But Schools, who is taking a break from his work as the bassist for Widespread Panic to accompany the Mickey Hart Band on its current tour, insists that Hart’s efforts to incorporate these sounds into his music epitomize his desire to stretch the boundaries. “For me, what draws me in is it’s a very forward-thinking artistic project,” he says. “Mickey and I will say to each other, ‘Find me a sound I’ve never heard.’”
To craft riffs and lyrics around these alien sounds, Hart has assembled an all-star cast of musicians, including Grammy-winning percussionist Sikiru Adepoju, Tony Award-winning vocalist Crystal Monee Hall and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. In Schools’ eyes, the mission is to keep listeners and concert-goers on their toes. “I would come see this band if you want to see the unexpected, if you want to be caught off guard,” he says.