Foreign objects are keys to Hauschka's piano

The "prepared piano" artist Hauschka achieves his sound by adding objects to a piano's strings and surfaces.
MPR News/Jeffrey Thompson

When we told our engineers Hauschka was going to perform for The Daily Circuit in the Maud Moon Weyerhaeuser studio, they grew nervous.

"Hauschka" is actually the pseudonym of German pianist/composer Volker Bertelmann, and what he does to a piano had our engineers scared. Bertelmann plays prepared piano, a longstanding technique in which performers place items in and on a piano's strings to change the instrument's sound.

Hauschka dropped by after a recent performance for the SCPO's Liquid Music series, and in his bag of trinkets were a toy drum, ball bearings, various pieces of wood, and even a plastic cup. All that, and more, would be taped, placed and wedged into the studio's beautiful (and expensive) grand piano.

His work with gadgets like these has earned him wide respect. He's collaborated closely with the acclaimed violinist Hilary Hahn; together they recorded the album "Silfra," released in 2012. He is promoting his new album, "Abandoned City," which will be released in a few weeks.

All the fretting of the MPR engineers was for naught, as it turned out. Hauschka treated the instrument with kid gloves and reverence. He walked us through some of the preparations and shared a few tunes, which turned out to be a lovely soundtrack for our snowy landscape.

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