Hauschka

Hauschka: The Prepared Piano

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Hauschka's The Prepared Piano is the distillation of Erik Satie's stripped-down languor, John Cage's innovations, and Klimperei's toy pop. Or in other words: the prepared piano technique applied to simple tunes that have a childlike quality to them. Cage had desecrated and reinvented the bourgeois instrument par excellence in the 1940s, taping, screwing, and placing almost every small object possible on its strings to conjure up new sounds. Since then, the prepared piano has mostly remained a tool of the avant-garde. Few artists have tried to use it outside that niche. Homemade instrument aficionados like Frank Pahl, Pascal Comelade, and the French duo Klimperei have occasionally turned to it, but generally preferred to "prepare" guitars and toy instruments. Hauschka, aka Volker Bertelmann, conceived a series of short tunes that sound like delicate piano melodies backed by a gamelan orchestra with small toys added to its ranks, except it's all solo piano (plus a touch of bass and electronic drums in "Morning"). The writing is graceful, accessible, maybe a tad too repetitive. The preparations never sound like a disposable add-on; Bertelmann uses specific regions of the keyboard to create rhythm, introduce a metallic overtone, or simply create a larger-than-life persona for his piano. The result is a charming feel-good album, slightly inconsequential despite its cleverness, but enjoyable and fresh-sounding.

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