Hauschka seems to dwell in areas of flux.
A composer who fuses modern classical approaches with electronic innovation, his work has deftly mapped out a topography all of its own.
New album 'What If' is out now, and it's a fascinating return, one that combines moments of lyrical daring with unexpected musical flourishes.
The gentle, fuzzy electronics nestle against elements of real beauty, with Hauschka continually referring back to the emotional impact music can have.
Hauschka will play a show at London's Village Underground on May 30th, and it promises to be a feast of piano-centric outpourings. He explains:
"I will play a solo set with three pianos: two Disklaviers and one grand piano. The Disklaviers are pianos that are controlled by an iPad, so in a way they’re my 'piano band'".
Clash invited Hauschka to discuss his techniques a little further...
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There are four different topics that I think are important when it comes to piano treatment:
1. The sound search in comparison to existing sounds
Sometimes I look to recreate a sound that I have already used or one that I've heard. It doesn't neccesarily have to be a synthesiser sound, but when it is I try to find a way of recreating the envelope of the sound by damping the strings or adding a harder attack. I think it is helpful to imagine the shape of the sound to find the right treatment for the piano.
2. The randomness
One part of the treatments that is, I think, very important is what I like to call randomness. It helps to create surprises and inspiration that rid you of personal obstacles and repetitive concepts. Sometimes I'll go to one of those One Euro shops and look for cheap things that I can use to create a new sound.
For example, I recently found these metal cleaning pads for the kitchen that I thought I could use to vibrate on my piano strings. In my enthusiasm, I bought ten of these pads and threw them straight into the piano as soon as I got to the venue, expecting some wonderful soundscapes. Nothing happened, unfortunately, not even a slight change of the piano sound because they were so light, but the experience helped me learn about the chain reaction that material inside the piano can create.
At some point while I was performing I felt that I have to play so many notes to have a constant carpet of sound and wanted to find a way of making the notes resonate longer. It was a really invigorating challenge - I've always been fascinated by the process of solving problems and love exploring new performance techniques. It's a wonderful feeling when you discover something and get to use it for the first time in one of your live shows.
My first idea was to bow the strings like a violin. There's a composer from the US called Steven Scott who is doing some very interesting work with bowed piano, it's awesome to hear but it just wasn't working for me - I didn't have enough hands to bow polyphonic chords - so I tried using E-bows instead. These work like magnets, bringing the strings into resonation, and were typically used by guitarists in the 70's to create a kind of "singing-saw" sound to get a steady note resonating.
I felt that because it worked so well with strings then there was no reason why it couldn't work with a piano if I used the sustain pedal. You can even use two E-bows in a row to use it on the bigger bass strings.
4. The instrument
Every instrument has its own qualities and imperfections. Certain set ups only work with certain instruments. There is a big difference, for example, between grand pianos and upright pianos.
On an upright piano, the preparations are hanging while on the grand piano the material jumps up and down. The size and quality of the grand piano is also important as pianos are so different when it comes to things like bass and tone.
All of this, naturally, influences the way that I play. I try to be as flexible as possible with my performances so I don't always know what kind of instrument I will have on the evening. I think that it is a wonderful challenge to constantly work under different conditions.
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Catch Hauschka at London's Village Underground venue on May 30th.
For tickets to the latest Hauschka shows click HERE.