The Dead’s Mickey Hart translates the sound of the big bang


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Though eyewitness accounts have yet to surface to confirm the veracity of his claim, longtime Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart on his new album has captured the sound of the big bang, the mega-event that created the universe. Or at least that’s what he says comprise the frequencies on his new album, ‘Mysterium Tremendum’ (which means ‘the sense of awe and wonder that we feel at the vastness of the universe,’ and comes out April 12). The album, his first in five years, is a departure for the percussionist, and he will perform selections from it at the El Rey on Friday.

Hart, a longtime mystical thinker whose obsession with outer and inner space helped define the rhythms of the band he joined in 1967, wondered what would happen if he ‘combined sonic images of the formation of our universe with sounds drawn from musical instruments,’ he said by way of explanation in a statement. ‘It’s all about the vibrations that make up the infinite universe. In this case, they began as light waves and these light waves are still washing over us.’


Hart used the work of scientists at Penn State, Lawrence Berkeley Labs and Meyer Sound who transformed light into sound waves. ‘These musical excursions transport me to wonderful and strange new places filled with rhythms for a new day,’ he said. ‘The combination of music from the whole earth and the sounds of the planets, the stars, the events that formed our universe is intoxicating and points toward an awareness of what music is, could be, and where it comes from.’

How does it manifest itself as sound? Well, that’s not nearly as clear. On his website,, he describes the big bang as ‘beat one -- it was the downbeat. This is where all the rhythm, all the life, and everything that we know now started.’ Some things are better experienced than explained. Those attending Friday’s El Rey show will be among the first to hear Hart’s rendition of the big bang, and whether it blows out Earth’s eardrums in the process is to be determined. If the quiet, ethereal rhythm music playing beneath the YouTube clip on the site is any indication, though, Hart’s interpretation of the First Downbeat is much more calming than cacophonous.

Hart brings his Mickey Hart Band to the El Rey to perform selections from his new album. Featured players Friday night include Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools, Grammy-winning percussionist and longtime band mate Sikiru Adepoju, Tony Award-winning vocalist Crystal Monee Hall, singer Tim Hockenberry, drummer Ian ‘Inx’ Herman, guitarist Gawain Mathews and keyboardist-producer Ben Yonas.


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-- Randall Roberts