Across the Universe with Mickey Hart
PART II – The Heavenly Clockwork
The birth of the cosmos, a child, a new form of energy—all of these are musical events… – Mickey Hart, Spirit into Sound: The Magic of Music, Hart and Fredric Lieberman
RR: Going back through the layers of time makes me think of one of the defining cinematic experiences of my life, Apocalypse Now. What I didn’t realize at the time was how much the soundtrack would have an impact on me over the years. I could never quite place the “time” of the music, and I think that is why I always loved it, and it still continues to interest me. The music in that film subconsciously pushed me into areas of general philosophy that I might not have imagined existed before. That soundtrack music places me in a time that appears outside of time.
MH: It was beyond time; it was beyond, out there somewhere where there lives parallel universes and multi universes and other options besides our own time and space. By choosing the right instruments and the right instrumentalists and creating that kind of space, I was able to create that aura, which is always the thing. The way the astrophysicists in modern physics talk about the universe is that it is this giant vibrating membrane—drums, in a way—that expands and contracts, and that’s how the universe is able to have its rhythm and stay together and what the heavenly clockwork is all about.
That is what Pythagoras was trying to describe in 500 B.C. when he gave mathematical equations to all of the spheres. Back in the ancient days, they used to call it the ‘music of the spheres’ and Pythagoras claimed to be able to hear the sonorities of these planets. He couldn’t, but he was right. Then, of course, with the monochord, it’s called a beam now, but it is just a Pythagorean monochord, he discovered the octave, the fifth, the seventh, and so he gave musical equations to the heavens, to revolving spheres. He was the father of the science of music.
What I’m doing is taking science and using it in the musicological context. I’m playing with real wave forms, which were emitted millions and billions of years ago, and dancing with them. Back to this band, that’s what this band was built for, and that’s what makes
this thing so damned exciting—a rock ‘n’ roll band that is playing with the elements of space and time and the themes of where we are and what our place is in the universe. That’s what it is talking about; those are the themes.
RR: When you talk about music and its relationship with various elements, I have to turn to your book, a collection of quotes about music, Spirit into Sound: The Magic of Music, which were all talking about the same thing in a different way.
MH: Well, music is life, life is music because we’re vibrating, and anything that’s alive or moves in the universe, there’s a vibration, it has a vibration, it has a sound, and if it has a sound, we might just recognize that as music. It all depends on how close it is to the earth. It’s really, when you start thinking about it, it’s not a big stretch. I’ve always loved quotes because quotes describe things—they’re epiphanies. They are moments when the light goes on for anyone that explains the unexplainable. That’s why quotes are so amazing. And they all kind of talk about the magic and the mystery of it because music’s invisible. You can’t see it. You can hear it. You can feel it. You can’t touch it; not unless you take music and transfer its form into a vibratory form like the vibration from a plate, or something that vibrates something else and you feel it vibrating. You might call that another form of music.
Vibration is at the key of all of this—so, it’s a vibratory universe we live in; we’re vibratory; we’re animals, mammals that vibrate right down to our DNA, to the subatomic levels of the universe. It’s all vibratory. And we’re connected to that. It’s all about connection. The big connecting energy is vibration. Music is just controlled vibrations. That’s simple; that’s very simple to understand. The heartbeat, the lungs, the eyes, the nose, the talk, the combing of the hair, the farting—all of that is vibratory in nature.
Would you call farting musical? Well, some people wouldn’t. There are people that might. There was a fellow, Le Pétomane in France of 200 years ago that used to go around and play parlor games farting. He could actually make melodies by farting—putting out candles at 20 feet. He had his own strict diet, so there were no odors, or anything, and he was using his butt as an instrument. So you can even go as far as once you hear the trained butthole, as it were, it even could become an instrument, it could become music, but that’s a little bit off the track. (laughter)
RR: There are people that may say some of my writing comes from the same source.
MH: (laughs) Yeah. You know what I mean. The world of vibration—I don’t mean to trivialize it, but Le Pétomane was quite a sensation in the parlors of Europe in France and England and Germany and all of that. The idea that the human is a vibratory animal, and were embedded in the Universe of Rhythm. Look around you. Everything you can see and not see is moving. You can’t see matter because it’s not in the realm of sight, but it’s moving. Everything that is holding things together—neutrinos and all the particles—are constantly moving.
PART III – It’s the Rhythm, Stupid
All we need is a groove to move our feet, and songs to raise our spirits. – Mickey Hart, Spirit into Sound: The Magic of Music, Hart and Fredric Lieberman
MH: They are looking for this one thing called dark matter, which is the last element that we can’t find, and that takes up most of the matter in the world. That’s the grail now—finding dark matter. But that also moves, as well, so trying to find the Higgs Boson, which is the very element that is responsible for life, in CERN in France, is all vibratory in nature. They’re using a cyclotron to find that. When it’s all said and done, it’s the vibration. It’s the rhythm, stupid. It’s all about rhythm—the vibrations of rhythm. If you can understand the vibrations, and you can recognize it. If the ear recognizes it, it calls it rhythm. If it can’t, it calls it noise. If you look at a tree, or leaves, long enough, you can start to see a rhythm. If you look at the ocean long enough, you can start to see a rhythm. They are wild sounds, you can’t predict them. They are not in a regular rhythm, but they all have rhythm. When you see somebody walking down the street, that’s a recognizable rhythm. When you see someone calculating the next step, just like in music.
Music has to have a meter, a time, and that’s how we form and compose music, whether it be rhythmic, melodic, or harmonic—those are the three elements of music, but it’s all vibratory in nature. This band plays with that concept. It’s not science fiction. A lot of people over the years listened to the earth and they had no way of really knowing. Even Pythagoras, it’s really hard to say that he heard the sonare of the universe because I doubt he could hear it, or had a sensitive enough ear to hear the sun. It was impossible, but somehow he claimed that he did, and he was right. All those calculations are perfectly correct, so I assume it was something like mystical flight, or something. Now, scientists verify many of the ancients—Kepler, Brahe, Socrates, Confucius, and any great thinker in the ancient world had to go through sound, through vibrations, to explain the unexplainable, the mysteries of the universe. Now, those mysteries are explained through science, so I go to science. And that’s where we’re at now. I’m not a scientist; I’m a musician, but I use that real science in my music. That’s really the short of the long of it.