Floating Sound Gallery

Hans Tammen


Photo by Matthew M. Garrison

Hans Tammen likes to set sounds in motion, and then sitting back to watch the movements unfold. Using textures, timbre and dynamics as primary elements, his music is continuously shifting,with different layers floating into the foreground while others disappear. Whether richly processed guitar sounds from his hybrid interactive guitar/software instrument Endangered Guitar, traditionally notated material for his Third Eye Chamber Orchestra, or graphically notated elements for the all-electronic Dark Circuits Orchestra, his music flows like clockwork, “transforming a sequence of instrumental gestures into a wide territory of semi-hostile discontinuity;percussive, droning, intricately colourful, or simply blowing your socks off” (Touching Extremes)

He calls his guitar work Endangered Guitar because of the extreme alterations he enacts upon his instrument’s sound and construction, resulting in a hybrid guitar/software instrument made to interactively control live sound processing. Following the release of his 1998 Endangered Guitar CD on German sound art label NurNichtNur, critics called him “…clearly one of the best experimental guitarists to come forward during the 1990s” All Music Guide), and “an incredibly confounding and visionary improviser” (Copperpress). His recent data sonification piece “Conflict of Interest” (for Endangered Guitar and his own DNA analysis) was premiered at “Festival Klingende Datenströme”, Berlin 2017.

His Third Eye Orchestra compositions for large ensembles and live sound processing are inspired by Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew period and Earle Brown’s approach to form. All About Jazz called the music “nothing short of breathtaking”, and “a masterpiece of musical evocation”, AvantMusicNews the orchestra’s performance at the 2015 Victoriaville Festival “a thrilling 75-minute display that combined individual virtuosity in a cohesive and fun-filled framework.”

The Dark Circuits Orchestra is a large ensemble devoted to contemporary electronic instrument practices such as circuit bending, no-input mixers, laptops, turntablism, analogue circuitry, controllerism and network sniffers, and has received generous grants from MapFund and NYSCA. He has been the director of the Dark Circuits Festivals 2014 and 2017, the latter focusing on light artists using A/V synths, lightbulbs, LED structures, fluorescent lights and other bizarre visuals.

Numerous projects include site-specific performances and collaborative efforts with dance, light, video, and theater, having used technology from planetarium projectors and guitar robots to disklavier pianos and chaos-synths.

His works have been presented on festivals in the US, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Ukraine, India, South Africa, the Middle East and all over Europe. He recorded on labels such as Clang, Innova, ESP-DISK, Nur/Nicht/Nur, Gold Bolus, Creative Sources, Leo Records, Potlatch and Outnow.

Hans Tammen received grants and composer commissions from NewMusicUSA, MAPFund, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, American Music Center, Lucas Artists Residencies Montalvo, New York State Council On The Arts (NYSCA), New York Foundation For The Arts (NYFA), American Composers Forum w/ Jerome Foundation, New York State Music Fund, Goethe Institute w/ Foreign Affairs Office, among others.

Hans Tammen, originally from Detmold, Germany, currently lives in New York.He is teaching at School of Visual Arts, among other colleges. From 2001 to 2014 he has worked at Harvestworks Digital Media Art Center in NYC,where he was responsible for the Client Services, Education and Artist In Residence program, helping countless digital media artists through completion of their works. As an arbitrator at BTQ in the 1990s, he has has spent a decade advising German unions about electronic monitoring and surveillance at the workplace, and negotiating contracts and agreements to minimize surveillance aspects. He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Kassel, Germany, studying on a stipend from Friedrich Ebert Foundation.


Photo by Gerhard Kühne.

Sonic Flotsam.

I was rummaging through the garbage piles in the Hamburg/Wilhelmsburg neighbourhood for a while, to find an object I could coax sounds from. Eventually the crap I was collecting made it back to the garbage heap, as I bought an old leather suitcase for €1 in a thrift store.Decades ago I visited an exhibition about emigration from Bremen to New York, and the image of a room full of such suitcases immediately came to my mind when I saw the one in the thrift store. The idea came to me after I was invited a few years ago to one of the Pauline Oliveros memorials, in which I was part of the Apple Box Orchestra.

So taking off from Pauline Oliveros’ Apple Box approach, the suitcase acts as the instrument. Together with its contact microphones it functions as a filter and amplifier for the sounds coaxed from its resonant body,to then messed with, processed, and spatialized on a 8-channel sound system.

The production was part of a two-year exchange project, WIL(HELMS | LIAMS)BURG, in which 8 artists from both sides of the Atlantic (Xiao Fu, Georg Hajdu, Jacon Sello, Carlos Andres Rico, Dafna Naphtali, Howie Kenty, Maria Chavez and me) create works that relate to the common history between the locations Hamburg/Wilhelmsburg and Brooklyn/Williamsburg. This year’s production was supported by Behörde für Kultur und Medien Hamburg and Hamburgische Kulturstiftung.

Performances in collaboration with 48h Wilhelmsburg and blurred edges festivals, Hamburg. SONIC FLOTSAM was presented at IBA-Dock.