I went to this Mickey Hart (drummer from Grateful Dead) event a couple of weeks ago at East-West bookstore, entitled "Spirit into Sound." Mike, one of the friends who went with me, wrote up this nice review. Since he gave me permission to share it, I'm passing it along--just in case you might find it interesting, too. :) Inspired by Mike's review, I will add my own personal notes at the end. I was less enthralled than he, but did gain some valuable insights.
Major Thanks to Katie & Dave Minkus who gave me their tix to this sold out event!! (without their generosity you would not be getting this email :-)
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: The Magic of Music- formatted
Date: Thu, 20 Jan 2000 10:12:28 -0800
From: Michael Kahn <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Rich Raffals <email@example.com>
I ended up going to a book talk tonight featuring Mickey Hart and Fred Lieberman. They just co-authored a book called Spirit into Sound- The Magic of Music and they are doing the book tour gig. Mickey is also releasing a CD by the same name although it's not out yet. Thanks to Rich for falling into some tickets at the last moment and inviting me. I was going to go to a meditation this evening but I have learned that it is important to stay open to the present moment and sometimes let my plans go in order to accept the gifts that spontaneously appear. I let my plans go this evening and I am sure glad I did! Believe it or not Mickey did not play any music, except for beating on his chest and humming a bit in response to someone's question during the Q & A portion. Although I had been initially excited about hearing him play I got over it quickly when what Mickey and Fred were saying started to resonate with me- rhythm, trance, healing, spirit, music... Mmm, good stuff! They covered many subjects and as a participant at a number of Grateful Dead shows I really enjoyed hearing him talk about the band's history. Someone asked Mickey if there was a point in time where the band knew that they were onto something special. He didn't reply with an exact time but he said there was a definite point when the band "went full force into the future together." This synchronic development led to what he calls the Grateful Dead empire which was a safe zone away from the ugly, consumer side of music and "sound peddlers." One of the most interesting subjects to me which kept rearing its head throughout the talk was that of technology. Yes, the "t" word. Digital technology is revolutionizing music. As a Dead fan I was thrilled to hear that the entire vault of recorded music from over two thousand concerts will be digitized.
Simultaneously, Mickey's other recordings are also going to be digitized. Individually customized CDs are not too far off folks! And as Fred Lieberman, the ethnomusicologist who also spoke, made me realize, this is an amazing way of documenting music (and culture) which has in the past often been lost because it was never recorded.
Mickey embraces technology as an ally- "Together we'll dance into the next century," he says. ("It's the rhythm, stupid." is the quote you will find above his computer, maybe to remember why he puts up with it when it crashes.) Mickey does not shy away from digitized music in favor of traditional instruments.
He wants to take all of the world's music that he has researched over the years and bring it into the future with the help of the latest technology. For example, he has many, many instruments that are too fragile to travel with but he is digitally able to bring them with him when he travels. (By the way, there is going to be a huge display in one of the terminals at SFO exhibiting many instruments from his collection. I'm not sure on the timing.) I found myself nodding happily when he said that you have to be aware of this technology stuff even though it is here. "It's like a drug." What are you doing if you are sitting in front of a computer 24/7? He made a funny analogy to acid.
"You can't take acid every day, especially if you've got to watch the kids." The audience busted out laughing when he said that.
He was articulating what I have been trying to do recently. No, I haven't done acid and I don't have any kids, however I am trying to weave my way through this technological age and meld technology with value and purpose. On my bike trip cross-country I will be using a computer, digital camera, cell phone, etc. If it were someone else taking all that stuff my initial reaction might be "That's disgusting! They should be having a nice, natural trip and they are just degrading the experience with all that modern equipment." However, when my purpose of using all this technology to spread awareness for environmental education for children is added to the equation I have a whole new appreciation for the power of technology.
(Of course, I have the most potential for being positively biased about the worthiness of my bike ride.) I am further energized by that fact that I will have a solar array with me as well so that I can charge all the batteries using our magnificent sun! "Embrace technology and it will take you there," Mickey said. I think this is true as long as there are heartfelt, compassionate intentions driving one's actions. I strive to make mine such. "Use it as a tool," says Lieberman sagely, technology in and of itself won't do it.
These guys made the important distinction that music is a human universal but that it is not a universal language. The music that we understand is deeply tied to our culture. Example- Mickey once learned a traditional instrument played in Sudan. He was deep in the desert playing the traditional music with the Sudanese natives and they accepted him. However, when he decided to try to communicate musically by taking his playing "outside the box" everyone stopped playing. They had no way of understanding his improvisation.
If you happened to have made it through this whole email I hope you found it worthwhile. I felt inspired to write about this experience right after the event while I was still directly energized by it. Of course, there were a lot of other things that were said but this is what stood out in my mind. Maybe Rich can fill in some of the gaps or elaborate on things I glossed over.
Rich's notes from "Spirit into Sound" - 1/19/00
Music--(producing)-->Trance--(producing)-->Healing: A daily requirement!
Music is the quickest way to the sacred dimension. -Rumi
Everyone needs a rich "diet" of music: You can't survive on Grateful Dead music alone! (Tho some of the GD rhythms come from diverse/remote cultures/tribes around the world.)
- The 5 major for-profit producers who blast us with their
stuff all our lives have left us unknowlingly jaded and programmed
- The "real thing" is not on the radio, nor on the CDs
- Get out there and experience the real spirit directly
- Especially: Play/drum together
Everything is vibration (all subatomic particles are constantly vibrating)
3 Rhythm Worlds
"Spirit into Sound" -
- Required ingredient: Passion
- True evil of the world: Mediocrity
- Process of turning a spirit into a form (love, hate, joy, anger each has it's own rhythm/sound...which is why some music makes you happy, some sad, some energizes, some sedates, some enrages, etc.)
- Take internal feeling/experience and turn it into an external sound which embodies the spirit of the original feeling/experience
Music/rhythm is my first language...these words are merely a poor translation of the "spirit" we musicians are expressing in our native tongue
* Musical instruments Exhibit at the United Terminal at SFO after June
* www.loc.gov = digitization project: music archives @ Library of Congress
* http://www.heartmath.com/ = HeartMath in Boulder Creek
[I spent a day down at HM couple of years ago, looking
at using sgi visualization technology for their data. They do scientific
heart/mind/sound connection. I have some of their music, which you can borrow if you like. -Rich]
Future: Computers + Music
Things that make the mystery of the universe make sense,
if for a brief instant whilst one is consumed by them:
* We are each a tonal antenna, always sensitive to and
searching for other tones which are pleasing to us
* Simultaneously, we are each tonal transmitters, sending out our tonal vibration by which everyone we come in contact with is affected/attracted/repulsed/etc
* Some tones/vibrations promote faster healing, some slow it: Which are you?
Mickey's plea (in response to a question from the audience):
* Work to get musicians into the schools and educate the educators
* But, really, this starts at home: make music a conscious part of your home, your parenting
** Pursue the spirit in the sounds you hear, that's what it's really all about!