It may be a misnomer to file Mickey Hart under world music. How about placing the veteran percussionist in the universe music section?
It would be a new subgenre, but the maverick musician is paving the way toward something completely different.
Hart is going out there, way out there as he explores the power and genesis of rhythm with his latest release, "Mysterium Tremendum."
"Where do the rhythms come from," Hart asked during a phone call from northern California. "I'm going back 13.7 billion years. That's when we started. We thought (the Big Bang) happened 10 to 20 billion years ago and now we know when it really happened, which is 13.7 billion years ago (according to Hart's friend, Nobel Laureate physicist George Smoot)."
So "Mysterium Tremendum" ventures deep into the cosmos. While working with scientists at Penn State, the Lawrence Berkley Labs and Meyer Sound, Hart recorded electromagnetic radiation from planets and stars. He made the sounds audible through sonification.
This science experiment, which still is very much a rock record, explores the noises, which have been part of our universe for ages.
"We turn the light waves into sound, and we make music from it, Hart said. "It's the rhythm, stupid. Your brain is rhythm central. The universe is held together by vibrations. Music is just controlled vibrations."
The album is as out there as it sounds, but it's a unique, uncompromising production that is full of grooves and endless rhythms.
Hart, who will perform with his band Monday at the State Theatre, needed more than scientists to make his big bang project truly rock. He added a stellar crew of musicians.
Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter penned the words for the new songs.
Djembe player Sikuru Adepoju, Ian "Inkx" Herman, who handled percussion, bassist Dave Schools of Widespread Panic, guitarist Gawainn Matthews, keyboardist Ben Yonas, multi-instrumentalist Joe Bagale and vocalist Crystal Monee Hall joined Hart in the studio to help him realize a quirky but satisfying sonic project. Hart believes that he is a better player after learning so much over the past two years.
"I love to rock 'n' roll," Hart said. "But knowing all of this other stuff, it just makes my playing better, it makes it more emotional. I'm not just there punching a clock, I'm in training with the universe."
Hart certainly speaks like a true member of the Grateful Dead. He will deliver his share of new sprawling tunes, but also expect a number of Dead songs sprinkled into the set.
"I did birth that (Grateful Dead material)," Hart said. "I don't want to leave that behind."
The Dead phenomenon still is alive and well more than 17 years after Hart's band mate, Jerry Garcia, passed away, effectively ending the Grateful Dead. Hart believes the Dead's music will be part of our culture for a long time.
"That's because the music is comfortable," Hart said. "It makes you think. It makes you feel good. You have these great words by (Robert) Hunter. His lyrics are a major part of the story. The music has been around for generations. Kids have been able to teethe on it. They taste it and they can bring their younger brothers and sisters to it. It's not just music that was on the charts. It was more than that. A group of self-motivated fans kept the music alive and passed it along. It's a rite of passage. It'll be around for a long time."
Maybe not as long as 13.7 billion years, but who knows how long the sonic appeal of the Dead will last?
'MICKEY HART BAND'
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Where: State Theatre, 687 Central Ave., St. Petersburg
Tickets: $25; (727) 895-3045 and statetheatreconcerts.com