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Hans Tammen

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Biography

Hans Tammen calls his style of performance "endangered guitar," presumably because of the extreme alterations he enacts upon his instrument's sound and construction. Tammen "prepares" his guitar in much the same sense that John Cage prepared the piano; he also processes and manipulates his live sound through a computer system that's based on Cycling 74's Max/MSP program. Tammen was given his first guitar by his grandfather at age 15 — an old instrument that had been lying in a basement. Influenced by rock groups like Uriah Heep and Deep Purple (the latter's guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore, was an early hero), in 1972 Tammen began playing in bands himself. Tammen also studied classical guitar for a time. He developed an interest in the music of John Coltrane, but his mature style was mostly inspired by guitarist Sonny Sharrock's recorded solo on a live version of Herbie Mann's "Memphis Underground" that Tammen heard in 1979. Sharrock was one of the few jazz-influenced guitarists to capture the energy and abstract musicality that Coltrane brought to the saxophone; that appealed to Tammen. Thereafter, he began moving toward his present sound-sculpting manner of free improvisation. In the '80s he studied various jazz-based guitar styles, from swing to free. He also played in classical new music ensembles and began using synthesizers, sequencers, and electronic effects. In the '90s, Tammen began integrating his music with other art forms, collaborating with dancers, poets, visual artists, and theatrical artists. He toured the U.S., Canada, Russia, and Mexico. During that decade, he developed and refined his style. He's played and/or recorded with U.S. musicians such as Steve Swell, Dominic Duval, Jay Rosen, Denman Maroney, and Herb Robertson, among others. From 1997 to 1999, he hosted a weekly radio show in Kassel, Germany, devoted to contemporary art music. His first solo CD was released in 1999 on the Nur/Nicht/Nur label. By 2001, Tammen had moved to New York City. He began curating musical events around the city including the "Music and Encounter" series at the Goethe-Institut in 2002 and the laptop music marathon "Hip Chips" at the underground music club Tonic in 2005. During this time he made a one-track contribution to Elliott Sharp's 2001 compilation State of the Union 2.001 and recorded an album in 2005 with violinist Christoph Irmer titled Oxide. He joined Stanley Schumacher's Music Now Ensemble for the 2006 album Sound Textures and joined Alfred 23 Harth, Chris Dahlgren, and Jay Rosen on the 2007 album Expedition: Live at the Knitting Factory, released on the revived label ESP-Disk.

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