Mickey Hart is best known for his nearly three decades as an integral part of an extraordinary expedition into the soul and spirit of music, disguised as the rock and roll band the Grateful Dead. As half of the percussion tandem known as the Rhythm Devils, Mickey and Bill Kreutzmann transcended the conventions of rock drumming. Their extended polyrhythmic excursions were highlights of Grateful Dead shows, introducing the band’s audience to an ever-growing arsenal of percussion instruments from around the world. Exposure to these exotic sounds fueled Mickey’s desire to learn about the various cultures that produced them.
In the past two years, Hart has sonified the Universe, the Golden Gate Bridge, the America’s Cup, and now, he is going even deeper. On his new record SUPERORGANISM, due out August 13, 2013, Hart is breaking new ground by combining music with science and the human body. “This time we journey into the micro, the hidden worlds of rhythm within us, within our bodies,” says Hart. “My brain wave signals are reimagined in sound using a cap with electrodes that can read the throbs and signals of the brain. I have also sonified the sounds of stem cells, and heart rhythms for this recording.” On SUPERORGANISM, Hart has once again paired up with longtime collaborator and Grateful Dead lyricist, Robert Hunter, as well as, many special guest musicians.
Each night of his upcoming SUPERORGANISM tour, Hart will perform a piece featuring the sounds of his own brain while wearing an EEG cap so the audience can visualize his brain activity in real time. To see an example of how this will work, watch Hart and neuroscientist Dr. Adam Gazzaley of UCSF at AARP in New Orleans last November here.
In celebration of Hart’s 70th Birthday in September, many of the upcoming SUPERORGANISM tour dates will feature guest musicians and friends of Mickey’s. Special guests the Tea Leaf Trio (Trevor Garrod, Reed Mathis, and Cochrane McMillan of Tea Leaf Green) will open the majority of the dates. Mathis will perform double duty each night playing with both the Tea Leaf Trio and the Mickey Hart Band.
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Long a social activist, Hart appeared in August 1991 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging, speaking on the healing value of drumming and rhythm on afflictions associated with aging. With the help of Dr. Gazzaley, Hart, is continuing his Music Therapy research at the age of 69. “It all comes down to vibration and rhythm,” Hart says of his collaboration with Dr. Gazzaley. “This is about breaking the rhythm code. Once we know what rhythm truly does, then we’ll be able to control it, and use it medicinally for diagnostics, for health reasons. To be able to reconnect the synapses, the connections that are broken in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, that’s where we are heading.” It’s just the beginning, as far as Hart is concerned. “I’ve been working in my field for many years and so has Adam, it’s a handshake between science and art. Life is all about rhythm, and the brain is Rhythm Central.” To learn more about Hart and Gazzaley’s collaboration, go to RhythmandtheBrain.com.
The Mickey Hart Band consists of Grammy winning percussionist and longtime band mate Sikiru Adepoju, Crystal Monee Hall (Tony Award Winning RENT), singer and multi-instrumentalist Joe Bagale, drummer Greg Schutte, guitarist Gawain Matthews, bassist Reed Mathis (Tea Leaf Green), and keyboardist/sound designer Jonah Sharp.
On October 11, 2011, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings released the ‘Mickey Hart Collection’ to preserve and further the Grateful Dead percussionist’s endeavor to cross borders and expand musical horizons. Smithsonian Folkways have made many of Mickey Hart’s music projects available digitally (stream and download) for the first time while keeping physical versions in print as on-demand CDs.
The Mickey Hart Collection begins with 25 albums drawn from ‘The World,’ a series Hart curated that incorporated his solo projects, other artists’ productions, and re-releases of out-of- print titles. Six of the twenty-five albums form the “Endangered Music Project,” a collaboration between Mickey Hart and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, which presents recordings from musical traditions at risk. Both ‘The World’ and ‘The Endangered Music Project’ were previously distributed by Rykodisc from 1988 to 2002.
His tireless study of the world’s music led Mickey to many great teachers and collaborators, including his partners in Planet Drum Zakir Hussain, Babatunde Olatunji, and Airto Moreira. Planet Drum’s self-titled album not only hit #1 on the Billboard World Music Chart, remaining there for 26 weeks, it also received the Grammy for Best World Music Album in 1991– the first Grammy ever awarded in this category. Hart last released the Global Drum Project with Zakir Hussain, Sikiru Adepoju, and Giovanni Hidalgo in 2007, which took home the Grammy for Best Contemporary World Music Album.
Mickey’s experiences have paved the way for unique opportunities beyond the music industry. In 2008, he and Planet Drum partner Zakir Hussain composed a thrilling backbeat to the new Volcano at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, NV. He composed a major drum production performed by an assembly of 100 percussionists for the opening ceremony of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. Additionally, Mickey has composed scores, soundtracks and theme for a number of award-winning films and television shows including Apocalypse Now, Gang Related, Hearts of Darkness, The Twilight Zone, the 1987 score to The America’s Cup: The Walter Cronkite Report, Vietnam: A Television History, and The Next Step.
Mickey has written four books documenting his lifelong fascination with the history and mythology of music. These include Drumming at the Edge of Magic, Planet Drum, and Spirit into Sound: The Magic of Music. His latest book, Song catchers: In Search of the World’s Music published by National Geographic Books, traces the 100-year evolution of recording technology, creating vivid portraits of the pioneers who traveled far and wide collecting the world’s music.
In 1991, Hart founded Rhythm For Life, and put on a 2000 person drum circle at the College of Marin, where he was joined by Carlos Santana, Shiela E, Hamza El Din, Airto, and Flora Purim, and in the Fall of 2004, broke the Guinness World Record: Largest Drum Ensemble for his 5000 person drum circle, also in Northern California. Mickey currently serves on the board of “Music and the Brain” at Institute for Music and Neurologic Function at Beth Abraham Hospital.
In 1999, Mickey was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress where he headed the sub-committee on the digitization and preservation of the Center’s vast collections. There he helped to establish the “Save Our Sounds” project, a collaboration between the AFC and the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, where he currently serves as member of the board of directors.
Mickey has been honored repeatedly for his contributions. The Grateful Dead was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, and in 2007 along with the other members of the Grateful Dead, Mickey received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award. Other honors include, in 2009, Mickey was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame. In 2004 he received the NARAS SF Chapter Governors Award, in 2002 Surround Music Awards Best Multi-track Reissue for Grateful Dead American Beauty, and in 2003 a Music Has Power Award, In October of 2000, the Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center conferred an honorary doctorate of humane letters upon Mickey for his work in advancing the preservation of aural archives.
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