Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Aug 04th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Rebel with a Cause

music_HauschkaHauschka adds ping-pong balls and beautiful chaos to the piano
It’s a rare sight, but at a Hauschka concert, hipsters and classical enthusiasts really do collide. So do ping-pong balls, beer bottle caps, marbles, vibrators, tape, and anything else the German musician—whose real name is Volker Bertelmann—thinks will dutifully accessorize his piano strings.

“Normal classical pianists use the piano as a tempered instrument, but I don’t like the attitude that that’s the only thing you can do with it and nothing else,” the 44-year-old says from his home in Dusseldorf.

Stumbling upon the technique of prepared piano (made famous by John Cage), Bertelmann first started lodging random items into his piano at the age of 12, when, he remembers, “I got a box of tacks out of the cupboard and found that with the tacks and the piano hammers, the piano sounds like a harpsichord. Suddenly I had two sounds!”

His childhood curiosity has never ceased and a peculiar rock-infused approach on the grand piano has stuck. While he believes most pianists use only 30 percent of the piano’s capabilities, Bertelmann explores it as a string instrument, a key instrument and a drum instrument with small hammers.

Blurring the lines of chamber music, indie rock and throbbing electronic music, the cutting-edge composer’s current tour combines pieces from last year’s classically-based Foreign Landscapes with this year’s avant-garde Salon des Amateurs. Some shows will see him accompanied by symphonic players (like San Francisco’s Magik*Magik Orchestra), while others will see him flanked simply by a drummer (in Portland, it was Joe Plummer of Modest Mouse). For his performance at Kuumbwa Jazz this Friday, April 29, Bertelmann will present the latter set-up with Samuli Kosminen behind the drum kit.

Improvisation is everything to Bertelmann, who accumulates tools on the spot at each venue he hits up. Adding texture to the traditional piano, he implements wooden sticks to mute the strings, cheap chains from $1 shops to rattle, tin foil to get high-hat sounds and, yes, unruly ping-pong balls.

“Whenever I fill the piano with ping-pong balls they create a visual wave and they react to the sound simultaneously,” he describes. “But they also create chaos because they don’t jump like you want them to jump; they sometimes rest in the bass keys, so then my composition has to go to the bass area and I have to play there.” He adds, “It’s almost like a pinball table. In a way, it’s a game when I have to follow the balls with my ideas if they don’t go where I want them to.”

The title of his latest release, Bertelmann explains, is a reflection of that freeform methodology. “An amateur is someone who loves the mistake and who loves what he can feel. Imperfection makes it even more beautiful, and it’s a result of a little chaos inside of something.”

An experimental player whose structure-less songs can span loud club music to minimal, intricate plunking, Bertelmann’s current musical mosaic interlocks all his interests. “I’m putting together everything I’ve done in the past, rather than dividing my personality into a classical piano player or an indie rock guy or a dance guy,” he says.

He humbly reassures that he’s not alone. “When I came to America, people were asking me, ‘Are you inventing the prepared piano?’ But in New York they were already playing prepared piano in the ’40s and they were raging. It was like a punk movement rather than anything else.”

Needless to say, Bertelmann is one ballsy composer.

“These days, I’m still fighting against the same establishment,” he begins, “because whenever I go to a concert hall, people are very scared that I’m going to destroy their piano.”


Hauschka performs at 8 p.m. Friday, April 29, at Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $15/adv., $18/door. 427-2227.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Health Screening

Santa Cruz wellness expert releases app to improve workplace well-being

 

Leo Sun; Full Moon, Venus Retro in Leo; Saturn Direct

It’s a complex week of planetary movements, challenges, demands and callings. We’re in the time of the Leo Sun. Leo—fixed fire, gold, the heart, generous, strong, noble, the king/queen—needs appreciation and praise from everyone in order to move forward. During Leo we gain a greater sense of self-identification by recognizing our creativity. It’s therefore a perfect time for Venus retrograding in Leo. In Venus retrograde we review and re-assess values. Venus retro in Leo concerns our self as valuable, acknowledging talents, gifts, abilities and offerings. Friday, Venus re-enters Leo (29 degrees, a critical degree) continuing the retrograde to 14 degrees Leo on Sept. 6. Friday (Full Moon) is also the (8 degrees) Leo solar festival, Festival of the Future. Leo is the heart of the sun, the heart of all that matters. When attuned to this heart, we have understanding and inclusivity. The heart of the Lion is Mitra (think “Maitreya,” the coming World Teacher). Leo prepares humanity to receive divine love from subtle sources and later to radiate that love to the kingdoms. Sirius, Ray 2, where love originates, streams through Regulus (heart of Leo), into the heart of the sun (Ray 2) and into all hearts. The heart of Leo is Regulus. Joining Venus, the love underlying all of creation appears. Saturday is Sun/Neptune (confusion or devotion) with late night Saturn turning stationary direct. Ideas, plans and structures held long in abeyance (since March 14) slowly move forward. (Read more on Leo and the week at nightlightnews.org and Risa D’Angeles’ Facebook page, accessed through my website.)

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of July 31

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Holy Cannoli

New bakery opens in Ben Lomond, plus Randall Grahm’s quest to grow 10,000 new grape varieties, and Mexican cooking classes

 

Is Santa Cruz turning into Malibu North?

It's got a ways to go before it gets wrecked like Malibu, but I think we need to be very careful about growth. Maria Mattioli, Santa Cruz, Psychotherapist

 

Bargetto Winery

A much-anticipated annual event at Bargetto Winery is the release of their very special La Vita red wine. June 7 was the day to be heralded this year, and I happily squeezed my car into their overloaded car park in eager anticipation of tasting the new La Vita nectar.

 

Margaritaville

Popular Capitola spot gets new owner and complete makeover