Music

Hauschka: The Prepared Piano

Dave Howell

A different take on piano playing... unusual and interesting.


Hauschka

The Prepared Piano

Label: Karaoke Kalk
US Release Date: 2005-09-27
UK Release Date: 2005-09-19
Amazon
iTunes

Prepared piano uses objects placed on or between the strings to alter the sound. There are many methods to do this, some that dampen the strings, and others that pluck or otherwise cause them to produce ringing tones.

The title of the CD would make you believe that it is avant-garde, full of strange, semi-musical pickings and hammerings. Actually this is a fairly conventional solo piano CD, more New Age than jazz. Bertelmann's playing is minimalist, using simple, repeating lines that are accompanied by unusual hammered sounds, ticking, and ringing.

There is little information on the CD sleeve, Internet, or press material about how Hauschka, aka Volker Bertelmann, does his preparations, except for 'clamping wedges of leather, felt, or rubber between the piano strings, preparing hammers with aluminum paper or rough films, placing crown corks on the strings, or weaving in guitar strings." He also adds in a bit of synthesizer, bass, and drum. It is often difficult to tell whether he is using samples or overtracking. For example, "Where Were You" appears to have a xylophone on it. It would be interesting to know if this was a "prepared" effect, and how it was done. This is music which might be appreciated more if you could see it performed live.

Hauschka changes the sound and the mood on the first half of the CD. "La Seine" is a simple, childlike melody; "Traffic" emphasizes the percussive element of the piano with hammered, repeated notes; "Fernpunkt" has an Oriental feel, its Far Eastern melody accompanied by what seems like small gongs and cymbals.

As the CD progresses, the prepared element becomes less prominent. "Ginko Tree" and "Twins" have beautiful melodies, with just a bit of prepared "ticking" on the former, and some muted string hammering on the latter. "Firn" is a combination of austere piano patterns with a bit of synthesizer added. "Two Stones" sounds like a duet with a piano and a child's toy guitar, while "Longwalk" sounds as if there is a small zither in the background.

By the time "Morning" rolls around, the twelfth and last song, the repetitive piano patterns have somewhat blended together, and Hauschka seems to have run the course of his "prepared piano" ideas.

Still, this CD is successful as a quiet, meditative solo piano CD. It is more diverting than absorbing. Hauschka uses his piano preparations as something of a novelty, but this makes it easier to listen to for most of us who are used to hearing structure and melody. All in all, this is both an interesting and listenable work.

5

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.

Music

Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum
Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Music

Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.

Music

Godcaster Make the Psych/Funk/Hard Rock Debut of the Year

Godcaster's Long Haired Locusts is a swirling, sloppy mess of guitars, drums, flutes, synths, and apparently whatever else the band had on hand in their Philly basement. It's a highly entertaining and listenable album.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.