Snowflakes and Carwrecks
Once you’ve mastered an instrument, you have two choices: move on to another, or tinker with the one you know and love. No stranger to critical acclaim, German composer and avant garde pianist Volker Bertelmann’s work as Hauschka makes use of the latter technique. Known as prepared piano, Hauschka’s unique sound is derived from altering the original use of a piano—preparing it—to make new sounds by shoving tacks and wooden blocks in between strings or plucking them like a guitar. Why hire an entire percussive ensemble when you can make many of the same sounds yourself?
Snowflakes and Carwrecks reenergizes fans and warms up unfamiliar audiences for Hauschka’s upcoming tour across the US. While instrumental tunes may not immediately inspire a concert ticket purchase, a live show with fractured and reworked instruments might make you think twice. Listening to the soothing, complex layers of this short album—what I’d call “work music,” something to which I can listen while I work and not become distracted—is great for both a rainy Sunday or a walk in the woods. While reminiscent of the cold German winters that likely inspired it, Snowflakes and Carwrecks is at turns both somber and hopeful. Winter ends eventually, and you’d better have some music to pair with the returning sunshine.
Prepared piano has been used by everyone from Elton John to Ben Folds to Christine McVie. It can be described as the audible equivalent of using expired film in an ancient camera without casing. You may not be certain of the results, but bringing an art form down to its most basic, primitive state, you can find new ways to start all over again, from the ground up.