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As an artist, Hammer is best known for his Guitarchitecture recordings, though he is also widely regarded as an influential soundtrack composer, having scored approximately 300 documentary films. He is currently developing a series of improvisational live recordings. He attended State University of New York at Buffalo, studying classical guitar with Oswald Rantucci, jazz with Archie Shepp, and attended lectures presented by Karlheinz Stockhausen. Hammer was also a part of the Lou Reed Band that hosted the June 1979 concerts at The Bottom Line in New York City that included Don Cherry.
He was born in New York City.
Hammer toured extensively with Lou Reed from 1978 through 1980. During these concerts Hammer utilized new guitar technology, known as guitar-synth, to orchestrate songs from Berlin, Street Hassle, The Bells and The Velvet Underground. It was during this time that Hammer developed an approach to composing and recording known as Guitarchitecture. Hammer recorded with Lou Reed on Growing Up in Public, January 1980.
In March 1980, Hammer recorded guitar-synth tracks for David Bowie on the album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), including multiple textures across "Ashes to Ashes" and "Teenage Wildlife", both of which marked the earliest use of guitar-synth in Bowie's catalogue. The actual instruments utilized on these tracks included a Roland GR-500 with an Eventide Harmonizer. Textural tracks such as those on "Ashes to Ashes" exhibited a multi-layered, approach, to recording and composing with the guitar.
Hammer's recorded work is known as Guitarchitecture, a process and term which he developed in 1977. The underlying thought behind Guitarchitecture is to extend the guitar vocabulary. Guitarchitecture involves broadening the guitar's vocabulary by altering its temporal sustain characteristics and context. This approach often utilizes extended sustain, reshaped timbres, discreet vibrato techniques, textural event layering, and simply breaking down a chord to its basic elements and recording each element separately (as a modified orchestra). The term Guitarchitecture applies to both Hammer's soundtracks in the digital film medium, and his recorded guitar work.
Hammer was accorded pioneer status by Rolling Stone magazine, alongside an eclectic and select group, including Robert Fripp and Allan Holdsworth, having been attributed with leading a new era of development in the global guitar community, influencing instrument capabilities, form and functions in music.
He is currently developing a series of Guitarchitecture soundtracks.
In 1983 Hammer began composing film soundtracks with a Synclavier, adding a Digital Guitar Interface in 1984. Later that same year he worked with Laurie Anderson, triggering synchronized samples, from her Mister Heartbreak multitrack recordings live, utilizing the Digital Guitar Interface. In 1985 he recorded "Glacial Guitars", a series of Guitarchitecture pieces that deploy cello timbres and string controlled sampling. in 1986 Hammer recorded "Cathedral Guitars", a series of solo acoustic pieces. In November 1986 he collaborated with David Gordon, composing "The Seasons", for the Next Wave Festival, which premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Hammer utilized a synthaxe as the primary instrument to reshape audio elements while recording this musique concrète piece.
In 1989 Hammer designed AVA studios in New York City, a multi media production facility, that focused on film and digital music scoring. Between 1994 and 2004 he composed soundtracks for an extended series of non fiction documentaries; collaborating with National Geographic, Discovery Communications, New York Times and A&E Network. These soundtracks were widely broadcast and in effect darkened the tone of soundtracks that followed in the genre, through merging textural guitar with processed sonic artifacts.
The following is a partial list of series and documentary soundtracks he has composed:
- Trauma: Life in the E.R.
- The First 48
- Science Times
- World Birth Day
- Police Force
- Maternity Ward
- Breaking News
- Women and the Badge
- Just Off The Coast
- Crazy Eights
- The Wreck
- Glacial Guitars
- Cathedral Guitars (solo Acoustica 1)
- Avignon Crosses (solo Acoustica 2)
- Moonless Night
- Shelter Curve
- Arctic Circles
Additional sessions and compilation discography
- Growing Up in Public, Lou Reed, (1980)
- Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), David Bowie, (1980), UK No. 1, US No. 12)
- Changestwobowie, David Bowie, (1981)
- The Singles Collection (David Bowie album), David Bowie, (1993)
- Best of Bowie, David Bowie, (2002)
- Rock and Roll Diary: 1967-1980 Lou Reed, (1980)
- City Lights Lou Reed, (1985)
- Someday, Arlo Guthrie, (1986)
- Between Thought and Expression: The Lou Reed Anthology, [box set], Lou Reed, (1992)
- Perfect Day, Lou Reed, (1999)
- Escape Artist, Garland Jeffreys, (1980), Epic
- Showstopper, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, (1982), gramavision
- The Collection, David Bowie (Teenage Wildlife), (2005)
- Sound + Vision (box set), David Bowie, (2003)
- The Platinum Collection (David Bowie album), David Bowie, (2005)
- Welch, Chris - David Bowie: We Could Be Heroes (Thunder's Mouth Press) ISBN 1-56025-209-X
- Bockris, Victor - Transformer: The Lou Reed Story (Simon & Schuster) ISBN 0-684-80366-6
- Prown, Pete and Newquest, HP - Legends of Rock Guitar (Hal Leonard) ISBN 0-7935-4042-9
- Boleyn, JR - Far Way to Even (Abernathy & Smyth) ISBN 1-4196-2930-1
- Clapton, Diana - Lou Reed & The Velvet Underground (Bobcat Books) ISBN 0-86276-056-9