Volker Bertelmann, otherwise known as “Hauschka,” grew up in Ferndorf, a small village in southern Austria. His latest album is named after the town and features tracks which capture the light, “floating” mood of his childhood rambles through the countryside. Next week, Wordless Music hosts the beginning of Hauschka’s US tour featuring pieces from the album.
Though his childhood was filled with music from attending church and song-filled family celebrations, he left home for Cologne to study medicine. But his piano playing, his desire to compose, and an early film-score commission convinced him to quit his studies and immerse himself in multi-media projects and, eventually, pop music. (Hauschka was at one point a rapper.)
In the 1990s, as he was developing an interest in electronic music, he came upon the idea (more or less himself) of trying to simulate “electronic” sounds by placing objects inside the piano: he did not enjoy performing on a laptop, which he found rigid. What started as an attempt to create a cimbalom-like timbre by placing pins on the hammers of a piano turned into the backbone of his compositional technique. Indeed, he was preparing pianos long before a musicologist friend introduced him to the music of John Cage.
Hauschka describes his music as moving between techno-like patterns and a classical melodic lyricism. Ferndorf is dreamy and reflective, with several pieces incrementally layering melodic gestures over ostinatos. Satie is also a clear influence. After his work with Ferndorf is done, Hauschka wishes to turn to a piano-dance album and maybe even an orchestra piece. He’s also meeting with film directors who have taken an interest in his work.