Album: HAUSCHKA – Room To Expand (Fat Cat / 130701 CD1306 2007)

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Hauschka is an alias of German pianist and composer Volker Bertelmann, a third of Music AM (alongside Luke Sutherland and Stefan Schneider). His music under this moniker consists of sparely accompanied piano pieces which adopt the “prepared piano” technique most famously utilised by American avant-garde composer John Cage. This process involves the transmutation of the way that the instrument sounds by inserting objects into its mechanism – whether this be by wrapping the strings and hammers with rubber or foil or wedging objects between strings. This disrupts the pure tones of the instrument and introduces discordance and a certain amount of unpredictability to the sound. For example, the track “Kleine Dinge” features something that gives a percussive slap every time a certain note is played. Bertelmann has constructed the piece’s melody in such a way that this becomes an almost metronomic beat.

Prepared piano pieces can be a fairly dry and overly intellectual listen. Room To Expand is far from being either of these things. Hauschka’s particular strength is taking an experimental method of making music and coming up with something that is warm, moving and melodic (if in an unorthodox way). The album can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of whether they know or care how the music was constructed.

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