Hauschka is the alias of German pianist and composer Volker Bertelmann, who currently resides in Dusseldorf. Having previously studied classical piano for ten years, his work as Hauschka is based heavily upon an exploration of the possibilities of the ‘prepared’ piano – a playfully disruptive intervention into the preconceived idea of the piano as a pure-toned, perfected instrument waiting for a gifted virtuoso to play it.
Clamping wedges of leather, felt or rubber between the strings; preparing the hammers with aluminium paper or rough films; placing vibrators, ping pong balls or crown corks on the strings, weaving guitar strings around the piano’s guts, or pasting them down with gaffa tape – his resulting tracks are vivid, unconventional pieces made in a spirit of playful research-enthusiasm.
Rather than striving for any purist academic perfection, Volker’s playing seems as much informed by modern electronica as it is by any classical cannon. With the aid of his interventions, the piano becomes as much a machine for generating rhythms as it does for melody. Besides the piano, Hauschka has frequently utilised additional, non-piano sounds such as synthesizer, drum machine, electric bass, or other acoustic instruments like drums, vibraphone, strings or brass. A compulsive live performer, Volker has also pursued numerous creative alliances (including collaborations with violinist Hilary Hahn, drummer Samuli Kosminen, cellists Hildur Gudnadottir and Jeffrey Zeigler, and also with visual artists Semiconductor and Jeff Desom).
Before signing with 130701 in 2006, Hauschka released two albums on the Karaoke Kalk label – ‘Substantial’ (2004) and ‘The Prepared Piano’ (2005); and a 7″, ‘What A Day’ (2005) on the Ear Sugar label. His debut for 130701, ‘Room To Expand’ was released in February 2007. September 2008 saw a follow-up album, ‘Ferndorf’. Where the previous album comprised mostly solo recordings of Hauschka’s ‘prepared’ piano (with a few electronic and instrumental overdubs), ‘Ferndorf’ is a far more expansive and fully-realised album, with many of the tracks also featuring a string duo, enabling an increased solidity. An EP, ‘Snowflakes and Carwrecks’, was released in January 2009.
‘Foreign Landscapes’ (October 2010), Hauschka’s striking third album for 130701 saw the artist making ambitious advances on his critically-acclaimed previous work, in stunning collaboration with San Francisco’s Magik*Magik Orchestra. ‘Salon des Amateurs’ – an album of prepared piano-based dance tracks – was released to great success and acclaim in April 2011. An original, orchestral take on house/techno pieces, the album featured Joey Burns and John Convertino from Calexico, mum drummer Samuli Kosminen and Grammy-winning violinist Hilary Hahn. An album of remixes from ‘Salon Des Amateurs’ (featuring the likes of Alva Noto, Steve Bicknell, Ricardo Villalobos, Matthew Herbert, Michel Mayer, Patten and Vladislav Delay) was issued towards the end of 2012. The following year Hauschka signed to City Slang, where he continues to release fine records and be involved in fantastic projects.
In 2017, Hauschka and Dustin O’Halloran’s jointly composed score for the film ‘Lion’ saw its authors nominated for ‘best original score’ gongs at the Oscars, Grammy and BAFTAs.
New Blood (Bonus Tracks) – Various Artists / 130701 Compilation
Transcendentalism – Various Artists / 130701 Compilation
Salon Des Amateurs
Floored Memory...Fading Location – Various Artists / 130701 Compilation
Room To Expand