There is a ton of experimental music out there using conventional and unconventional instruments and sounds. But Mickey Hart, formerly a percussionist for the Grateful Dead, took that to the extreme with his band's latest album, "Superorganism."
After teaming up with researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, Hart started to collect exotic data that could be converted for use in his music, which is a process called sonification. He said he used a similar process in his previous album, "Mysterium Tremendum," using light waves and radiation from outer space to convert into music.
Although he continued to use exotic data from outer space and places on Earth for his latest album, Hart said he also wanted to go inward.
"It left me off here with us, me and you, and the brain and stem cells and heart rhythms, brainwaves - all of this is the micro," Hart said. "So after going through the macro getting a good view of that, I thought well, 'It's us, the master clock, the brain. What do we sound like?'"
Hart used electroencephalography signals from his brain, human heart rhythms and DNA base pairs that were converted into sound. Hart said the brain has some fascinating data points that can make for interesting music.
"If you look at the brain, it's got a rhythm," Hart said. "But it's a different kind of rhythm than you have ever seen or heard or I have ever seen or heard. But it's a new language. It's like looking at Chinese, if you didn't know Chinese."
Hart will be performing his new music with the Mickey Hart Band Sept. 20 at Sound Stage in Baltimore. He said the band will also play Grateful Dead songs at the concert.
"It keeps on following me," Hart joked, of his former band.
Hart said that his favorite data set that was converted for use in his music was cosmic background radiation that was used to map out the beginning of the universe, noise that he used in his song "Ghost Rider."
"A lot of these sounds are a part of the rhythm, but you wouldn't know," Hart said of how he meshed the sounds into his music.
He said the music is in some ways different from the Grateful Dead's, but the ultimate goals of both bands are comparable.
"It's similar in that it is after the trans. We are both - the Grateful Dead and the Mickey Hart Band - trans bands. And we are after transformation," Hart said. "Can we play a folk song? Can we play a Grateful Dead song? ... Yeah, this band can do anything."
Hart said many Dead fans have responded well to the new music.
"For them, it's one of those 'wow' moments," Hart said, of his live shows so far.

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