Backstage with Sandy Kenyon: Grateful Dead's Mickey Hart at the planetarium

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Sandy goes backstage with Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, who returned to the Hayden Planetarium for a special night of cosmic connections

A recent multimedia show at the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side of Manhattan featured a member of the Grateful Dead doing what was described as an "immersive experience."

"When I was a little kid, my grandma took me here," Mickey Hart said. "My light went on when I was 9, 10 years old, wondering about the mysteries of space, the wonder of it all. How did we get here? What is it all about?"

And what a long, strange trip it's been for drummer Mickey Hart, who returned to the Hayden Planetarium to futher explore the "Music of the Spheres."

"We're going to blast off," he said. "We're going to do 13.8 billion years in 30 minutes, and I will bring you home safely. I promise."

We found him playing an ancient instrument with a 21st Century twist.

"The beam is really a Pythagorean model chord," he said. "Pythagoras, 500 B.C., mathematician, philosopher...He discovered the octave on the beam. And he also figured out the heavenly clock, how the planets revolved just by a single string. I took it and put a bunch of strings on it and made it electric."

He uses it to tell the story of our universe.

"It's a drone instrument, it's like the cosmic low end of the universe," he said. "You'll be hearing the planets. When you see the sun, you'll hear the sun. When I turn the light, the radiation, it's a sound.

His latest project comes a few years after the surviving members of the band decided to call it quits in 2015 after half a century of playing together. But he brought his creativity to the planetarium, as well.

I'm always going in different directions," he said. "I like different directions. I mean, that's the musical fiber that you go after, the magic. When you're going for the magic, and that's it, and the feeling, you don't have to know anything more than that. You go for the feeling and the magic. If you find that, you got it."

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