Sunday, May 09, 2010

Aerial Boundaries

"I try to live my life like I play my guitar" said Hedges, "asking, 'what happens if I press this?' I'm always pushing the boundaries of comfort."

While studying in MCC, in the year 2004, my friend Amit gave a music album called Miracles that was a collection of musical masterpieces by various composers around the world.

The music piece that immediately caught my attention was ‘Aerial Boundaries’ by American composer and acoustic guitarist Michael Hedges from Oklahoma. Since then I don’t think I have had a day in my life without listening to it. Slapping and plucking of strings or percussive slapping on the guitar body gives a totally different feel, which I guess is quite unique of Hedges. Except an ear for music I have no commendable knowledge of music, so I am not talking much on this. But acoustic guitar always remained a love and thus the songs based on it.

‘Aerial Boundaries’ always takes me to many mountain peaks and heights I keep imagining in life and the richness of my solitude. I often have dreams of rich green mountains touching clouds. Listening to it makes me experience the same, the touch of clouds and smell of raw and chill wind. I was reading about Michael Hedges today. Sorry to realize that he passed away at the age of 43 in late 1997, in a car accident. He was driving home from San Francisco after a Thanksgiving visit to his girlfriend in Long Island, New York. His body was found a few days afterward. The very next year 1998, his record Oracle won the Grammy Award for Best New Age Album. Hedges was able to let go of attachments and live the life of a true travelling troubadour, with a little Zen in his pocket says John Beaudin in an essay about him.

Michael Hedges was also a multi-instrumentalist, playing piano, percussion, tin whistle, harmonica, and flute, among others on his albums. 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, percussive slapping on the guitar body etc. 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 and the Trans-Trem Guitar.

My impatience definitely didn’t let me grab any knowledge of guitar, though I have tried learing it many times. There was always been a guitar in my room for no specific reason but as a showpiece. I remember that silver coloured one I had in mcc that was taken by hall friends for Saarang festival at IIT. I have no clue, where it had gone later, but sure it was there in Heber Chapel for one more year. Yesterday at Skimstone studio, my friend Peter gave me his old guitar, that I am now thinking of getting repaired… Don’t know what is its fate…

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