Spotlight: Hans Tammen

New York-based Hans Tammen expands on the vocabulary of tabletop guitar using his Max/MSP “Endangered Guitar” software. By designing his own software he is able to produce uniquely personal  sounds, remains capable of intense collaboration. He has performed and taught around the world.


What kind of music were you playing when you first became proficient on the instrument?

That was the 70s, British Rock of course. Teachers called it “garbage”. Richie Blackmore was my hero.

What led you to create experimental (non-mainstream) music?

Looking back, I see that I always had fun trying things out, experimenting with electronics early on. But it took decades to actually take over my art and become the mainstay of my work.

Whose music inspires you?

There are a few very early influences in the 70s that still send a chill down my spine when I hear them today. Sonny Sharrock’s solo on the live version of Herbie Mann’s “Hold On, I’m Coming,” Miles Davis’ “Agharta” with Pete Cosey on guitar, Stockhausen’s “Gesang der Jünglinge,” Derek Bailey’s “Music Improvisation Company,” and WahWah Watson on Herbie Hancock’s “Hang Up Your Hang Ups” on the Live VSOP recording.

How did you get better at your current style?

Practicing. I am always surprised when people whip a little patch together and go on stage, but oops, where are my files?

What are you trying covey with your music?

Nothing. But I am happy when people’s ears open up.

Which guitars, amps, effects, plug-ins and software do you use to create your music, and why?

The guitar runs straight into my self-designed Endangered Guitar software, written in Max/MSP. The sound gets analyzed and is used as a control source for the software that processes the same sounds. I prefer sound systems to amps since they provide the necessary highs and lows for the electronics. No pedals, no effects, and no amps— it’s really that simple.

Which guitars, amps, effects, plug-ins and software do you use to create your music, and why?

The guitar runs straight into my self-designed Endangered Guitar software, written in Max/MSP. The sound gets analyzed and is used as a control source for the software that processes the same sounds. I prefer sound systems to amps since they provide the necessary highs and lows for the electronics. No pedals, no effects, and no amps— it’s really that simple.

Which do you enjoy more: recording or playing live and why?

Playing in front of a live audience gives the necessary adrenalin that’s keeping me alert through the entire performance. On the other hand there is no better listening situation than a recording studio—there I can hear all the subtle differences.

How have you built up an audience for your music?

I’m just in this for the long haul, and keep doin’ it.

 With whom would you like to collaborate and why?

In my experience, the music gets better the longer you work together; at that point looking for new collaborators is always a step back. A good example is my recent CD-Release with violinist Christoph Irmer: we’ve worked together for 30 years, and it truly makes a difference.

What is your latest project? When will it be available and where can people in different parts of the world get it?

I am lucky that the MAP Fund funds one or my larger projects, it will feature 15 international players of electronic instruments, and I will write and conduct a piece for these to be performed in 2013. Having done numerous pieces for Laptop Orchestras before, now we need to acknowledge that experienced players of electronic instruments always create their system to fit their needs, so they are actually instrument builders with highly idiosyncratic sounds and approaches. To give an analogy, instead of writing a concerto for violin and orchestra, where you know how the instruments sound, you’d write for 15 oddly shaped instruments

 

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