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Heavy Mental Thrash Acoustic Deep Tissue Gladiator Guitar

"I play the guitar because it lets me dream out loud." - Michael Hedges

Hedges was a Peabody Conservatory composition major who applied his classically trained musical background in combination with various unusual techniques to the steel-string acoustic guitar. He covered a wide range of musical styles and was considered an extremely dynamic performer in concert. He was discovered in the early eighties by William Ackerman who heard him performing in a Palo Alto cafe and immediately signed him to a recording contract on the Windham Hill label.

The first two records Michael Hedges made — Breakfast in the Field and Aerial Boundaries — were milestones for the acoustic guitar. He then branched out into singing and performing more popular forms of music, although he would periodically make a return to more guitar-centred music. He wrote nearly exclusively in alternate tunings. Some of the techniques he used include slap harmonics (created by slapping the strings over a harmonic node), use of right hand hammer-ons (particularly on bass notes), use of the left hand for melodic or rhythmic hammer-ons and pull offs, percussive slapping on the guitar body, as well as unusual strummings. He also made extensive use of string dampening as employed in classical guitar, and was known to insist strongly on the precise duration of sounds and silences in his pieces. He also played guitar-variants like the Harp Guitar (an instrument with additional bass strings), and the Trans-Trem Guitar. He was a multi-instrumentalist, playing piano, percussion, tin whistle, harmonica, and flute, among others on his albums. Bassist Michael Manring contributed to many of Michael's records.

Hedges had a very broad range of influences and his output spans many genres. His musical education was largely in modern 20th century composition. He listened to Leo Kottke, Martin Carthy, John Martyn, and the Beatles, but his approach to composition owed much to Stravinsky, Varèse, Webern, and Reich, in addition to experimental composers such as Morton Feldman. He saw himself as a composer who played guitar, rather than a guitarist who composed music. He was often categorized as New Age due to his association with the Windham Hill record label. Somewhat in reaction to this, he would describe his music as "Heavy Mental", "New Edge", ""Thrash Acoustic", "Deep Tissue Gladiator Guitar" or "Savage Myth Guitar," amongst other terms.

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Michael Hedges - Interview 5
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