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January 17, 2000

New book honors the magic of music

By Barbara McKenna

"It's the vibration, stupid." That's the way drummer and author Mickey Hart jokingly explains the transformative power of music. But Hart, who played with the Grateful Dead until the band broke up, and longtime collaborator Fredric Lieberman, a professor of music at UCSC, have far more eloquent things to say on the subject. In fact, as they worked on numerous other projects together, the two discovered that there have been many people with profound and inspirational things to say about the magic of music.

Image of Fred Lieberman's book
That realization was the inspiration for their latest collaboration, Spirit into Sound: The Magic of Music, published last November by Grateful Dead Music. The book is a collection of quotes and thoughts on the power of music that spans millennia and mindsets--featuring everyone from Ayatollah Khomeini to Gustav Mahler to Janis Joplin to Plato, who says, "Music training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the secret places of the soul."

"These wonderful images were full of light and wisdom, somehow speaking the unspeakable, touching the untouchable," Hart writes of the quotes they gleaned for their book. "In this collection, which is laced with some thoughts and recollections of our own, we try to present the wonder of music in the words of those touched by its magic."

"Spirit Into Sound is no Bartlett of music but rather a collection of striking epiphanies that we ran across over the past 18 years while working on the earlier books and other projects," Lieberman says. "We think of the book as a conversation with many musicians and musical thinkers across time and space."

Throughout their years of collaboration the authors sought out quotes on music for their own inspiration. When they found one that struck a chord, they would write it down on an index card and post it on the wall of their study. As the collection grew, the cards snaked across the wall becoming an entity that Hart and Lieberman affectionately call the "anaconda."

Spirit into Sound includes roughly 400 of the most interesting and inspiring quotes from the anaconda, but also includes the commentary of the authors. "After we selected the quotes, we sat down together and discussed their meaning and relevance," Lieberman explains. "From these discussions, I wrote a series of short essays that appear throughout the book, commenting on the quotes and sometimes connecting them to Mickey's life as a performer."

This is the third book Lieberman and Hart have co-authored. Their others are Drumming at the Edge of Magic: A Journey into the Spirit of Percussion (also authored by Jay Stevens and published by HarperSanFrancsico, 1990) and Planet Drum: A Celebration of Percussion and Rhythm (HarperSanFrancsico, 1991). They have also collaborated on numerous recording projects, including The World--a series of nearly 30 recordings released through Rykodisc--and a three-CD package titled The Bali Sessions.

A booksigning is planned at Bookshop Santa Cruz at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 9.

There is music in the air, music all around us; the world is full of it, and you simply take as much as you require.
~ Sir Edward Elgar

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