Chris Hedge has spent a lifetime immersed in music, gleaning from every source around the globe the elements that together constitute World Music. Through his recording of such luminaries as Chico Freeman and David Grisman, to his collaborations with Congolese master drummer Titos Sompa, legendary flutist Paul Horn, the Kronos String Quartet, visual artist Scott Dewar, work for rocker Neil Young and sessions with numerous unsung virtuosos, Chris Hedge has found his musical expression grow in breadth and depth, incorporating musical forms from North and South America, Africa, Europe and Asia as effortlessly as he switches from piano to kalimba.
Some of his music may be drawn from the environment (music is always in the air, if you’re listening for it). Take, for example, the percussive sound of a motorbike passing by on a dirt road in Nepal, or the sounds of birds singing along with the children in an open-air classroom on Beqa Island near Fiji. He characterizes these natural sounds as audio photographs, not “sound effects” or “samples;” as they are a part of the moment and the place that together create the music.
Hedge’s compositional career began modestly enough with soundtracks for the San Francisco State University Planetarium three decades ago. Since then he has composed more than 1,000 works, numerous albums and soundtracks. His first album with Paul Horn was nominated for a Grammy. He has performed all over the world, from an opera house in Italy, to a performance for the birthday celebration of the King of Bhutan.
From a musical family, Hedge’s formative years saw experimentation with many instruments. While adept at the piano, guitar and kalimba, his most expressive instrument is the recording studio itself. As his long-time collaborator, Paul Horn, put it, “Master your instrument and then you are free.” Hedge has mastered the art of production, making the artifice invisible, letting the music step onto the forestage and speak for itself. The Magic Shop, which he founded in 1984, is where he lets his creative juices ferment, taking all of his recordings from around the world, adding new music and seamlessly melding them into a coherent whole. If you could liken an album to the aural equivalent of a motion picture, Hedge is the ultimate “indie” artist: producer, director and editor, as well as one of the character actors in the background.
I’ve had the privilege of watching Hedge’s art evolve through a long career of solitary composition and collaborations. The New Heroes is his masterwork, the work of a mature and accomplished artist at the top of his form.