Hauschka – What if?

whatifWelcome to the world of prepared pianos. Prepared pianos you say? What the shit is that? Well, I’m glad you asked. 

Open up the back of that piano and check out all those strings hidden underneath that hood. Cool right? There are fucking tons of them. How does it work? Again, I’m so glad you asked. Each time you hit a note on a piano, black or white, a happy paddled little hammer inside the piano swings and strikes against 2 strings tuned to the exact same tone. If you mash your hands against a bunch of notes, then a bunch of happy soft and tiny hammers raise inside the piano to strike their own 2 strings set to the exact same tone. It’s a fucking crazy machine. And of course, with time, we wanted to fuck with it.

Back in the day, like late 1800s and early 1900s, dudes started putting shit between the strings on the piano so the sound of one individual note would change. On the song “All Tomorrow’s Parties” from the Velvet Underground & Nico, the piano is riddled with paper clips throughout the strings. Though, it’s really hard to hear this cause there is so much shit happening in that song played by many, many, many, stoned people. But, it’s still there. 

Anyway, this is what Hauschka (aka Volker Berelmann) does. Just way better in my opinion. It’s really a sight to see (you can always watch him ‘live’ on YouTube if you want). Using vibrators, microphones and guitar petals, ping-pong balls, duct tape, chop sticks, a tambourine or two, electric bows, bowls and plates, all set within the piano and on top or against the strings. He uses anything and everything to get the sound he wants. And, as far as I know, he’s been doing this shit since 2004. 

Anyway, onto the album. 

The mood on this album is not singular. I think true to the name of the album he’s saying, “What if I did this?” and then just recorded that idea. It’s not all ethereal and airy like he is usually, some songs have a deep and constant beat that feels like it has nothing to do with a piano. And, honestly? It’s all fucking awesome, and it might be his best. With two eyes forward and his feet set in the past, Hauschka delivers this album. If someone in the classical world were to listen to it, it would be considered “Avant-Guard”. If someone set in the electronic world were to listen, it’s kinda classical. Truth is it’s neither and both. The closest I can get to the mood of it is this: if you listen to the whole album, you will eventually feel like you’re aboard a spaceship. And, fuck, what piano album can make you think of Thom Yorke, Bjork, and spaceships.

Try it out. Have a listen. And as always, enjoy. 

 

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