The harp guitar — the American, steel-string buildout of the gut-strung Viennese contraguitar — was fashionable in the US in the early 1900s, but it was rarely used in virtuosic music. While its photogenic qualities were without equal, its expanded range was typically used simply to add occasional low bass notes.
In 1984, with “Because It’s There,” Hedges exploited the capabilities of the harp guitar in a new way, playing melody on the sub-basses and using the six-string neck for accompaniment. This composition was the impetus for a new age for the harp guitar.
Then, in 1986, Hedges built on this approach with “The Double Planet,” opening with a passage technically reminiscent of “Aerial Boundaries.” Both hands are playing the six-string neck: the left hand hammering on and pulling off notes on the third string; the right hand playing notes on the first, second, fourth, and fifth strings, and making extensive use of right-hand string-stopping to clarify the combined result. It’s not surprising the Hedges was inclined to smile when he played this passage: it is a delight to behold technical intricacy yielding such a beautiful result.
While originally conceived of as part of a suite exploring planetary themes, “The Double Planet” first appeared on the recording Santa Bear’s First Christmas in 1986, and then on Live on the Double Planet in 1987.