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Hauschka – Foreign Landscapes

Emily Jackett


Hauschka is Düsseldorf-based pianist and composer , Volker Bertelmann. Bertelmann records and performs under the moniker, exploring the possibilities of ‘prepared piano’. An idea famed by John Cage, of altering the piano’s sound by interfering with it’s strings and introducing foreign objects. Paperclips, gaffer tape, bottle tops, ping pong balls…modifying the sound with playful experiments and challenging the classical idea of the piano.

While the sounds he makes are experimental, the songs are not at all inaccessible. The instrumental works are meandering, playful, ponderous and cinematic. Conjuring bustling images of busy streets and passing strangers of clouds moving and snow melting on sidewalks.

The recently released Foreign Landscapes is his third album with FatCat records, he has extended his repertoire and compositions to include San Francisco’s Magik*Magik Orchestra, a twelve piece string and wind ensemble which weave colourful melodies around Bertelmann’s post modern piano. Reminiscent of Satie, short melody lines are repeated, altered and built upon to create a sense of joy, urgency, desperation, or distress. It’s busy but simple in a similar way to Yann Tiersen’s score for the film Le Fableaux Destin d’Amelie Poulain.

The album begins in Alexanderplatz, the largest public square in central Berlin. The Violin beckons us in to a quiet scene, it builds in to a rhythm, creating a sense of movement and back and forth. The repetition of melodies is the repetition and rhythm of day to day to life. In each track the repetition builds tension, in the urgency of Union Square especially. There is a sense of waiting for something which doesn’t arrive, the songs swell and dissipate, finishing as they started.

The songs seem to emulate the feeling of a space without a protagonist and without beginning middle or end. They create a mood and atmosphere without a distinct story, the creaks and groans of Mount Hood, the tinkering quietude of Snow and the slow, rolling Kamogawa all take us somewhere far away and beautiful, however the songs seem to speak of the importance small things, of the simple and the every day. The delirious joy and sudden exhaustions in Children is delightfully playful and fun, and stands out as a favourite on the album. Instruments and sounds run around each other and into each other with a whimsical, lighthearted joy. The whole album is charming, like a day dream.