Hauschka ▲ TALsounds
Time & Location
About the Event
On Abandoned City, Hauschka Takes the Prepared Piano in Unpredictable New Directions
The Album’s Expansive Tracks Celebrate the Unlikely Marriage of Neoclassical Composition and Hip-Hop/Dance Music Rhythms
The Album Will Be Released on City Slang/Temporary Residence Ltd. on March 17/18, 2014
Hauschka is a composer, songwriter and experimental musician who has brought an exciting new perspective to the prepared piano. The prepared piano – a technique for getting new sounds from the acoustic keyboard by resting pieces of paper or drumsticks on the strings of the instrument - has been used for centuries, but Hauschka was unaware of the tradition when, at the dawn of the new millennium, he began exploring ways to get new sounds out of his Bechstein grand upright. "I was not aware of John Cage (one of the first 20th century composers to use prepared piano) when I started searching for ways to alter the sound of the keyboard, but as I got more into prepared piano, I was influenced by Cage’s theories.”
The Prepared Piano, Hauschka’s first recording using prepared piano, was a solo album of spontaneous improvisations. The sounds he generated changed the course of his musical journey and he has since used prepared piano in a variety of settings. On Ferndorf, pieces composed in honor of his childhood home in Germany, he balanced improvisation with compositions that featured cellists, trombonists and violinists playing his inventive arrangements. The ‘acoustic techno’ of Salon des Amateurs featured drummers Samuli Kosminen (Múm), and Joey Burns and John Convertino (Calexico) and dropped subtle electro effects into the mix. On Silfra, an improvised collaboration with classical violinist Hilary Hahn, he dipped into classical music and ambient pop to create an expansive soundscape. With Abandoned City, Hauschka returns to the solo prepared piano to produce an evocative work full of unexpected grace notes and mysterious sounds.
Abandoned City was recorded in Hauschka’s home studio in a burst of creative energy following the birth of his first son. “With the exception of ‘Elizabeth Bay,’ which is based on a piece of music I wrote for a reinvention of Wagner’s Flying Dutchman, the music was composed and recorded in ten days. After the baby, I had to concentrate to find time to work, so the process was very intense.” The songs were recorded using nine microphones. Six recorded the sounds coming from the piano strings through an analogue console feeding directly into a computer to preserve the instrument’s full, warm sound. Three others passed the tones through a mixer full of effects – delay, distortion, echo – that can be triggered separately or used simultaneously. Hauschka creates the music and the arrangements as he goes, trusting the music to take him in the proper direction. “Most of the songs were played on one piano; I was mixing as I played. If I needed more piano, I overdubbed with another twiddling of effects. All the sounds – harp, balafon, Melodica, drums - are produced by the keyboard.”
Hauschka chose Abandoned City as the title of the album to convey the sense of hope and sadness that consumes him when he’s sitting alone at the keyboard. “I was interested in finding a metaphor for the inner tension I feel when I’m composing music, a state of mind where I’m lonely and happy at the same time,” Hauschka explains. “When I saw photos of abandoned cities, I felt it was perfect. People once lived there, but they left in a rush and now nature has taken over in a beautiful way, things are growing up from the sidewalk and the seasons are changing colors. The music is dark, but in a quiet, uplifting way. The piano is singing the melody but, because of the effects, you can’t hear it directly. It’s like the sound of a choir under the earth, something you feel without realizing it.”
Hauschka grew up in Germany in the village of Ferndorf in the district of Siegen-Wittgenstein, North Rhine-Westphalia. The thousand-year-old village was small, with a population of about 1,000 people. “There are a lot of old buildings and the town borders a forest, so I played in the woods when I was a child,” Hauschka recalls. “It’s also a strong Christian community. Being raised around fundamentalists forced me to go into rock music,” Hauschka says with a chuckle. “I started piano lessons when I was nine. By the time I was 14, I could play better than my teacher, so I found a jazz pianist and continued my lessons, but I stopped when I went away to school.”
Substantial, Hauschka’s first solo album, blended classical, avant-garde and pop impulses with an aura of measured melancholy. While working on the follow up to his debut, Hauschka discovered prepared piano. His experiments with this new instrument set him on a journey of exploration that reaches new heights on Abandoned City. He’ll be touring to support the album, offering audiences a taste of his unique musical vision. “Every song tells the stories of the people who once lived in these cities and left behind their dreams in the hope that they’d find happiness in a new place. The changes they went through represent the changes everyone goes through, the diverse events that happen everyday to bring you to that delicate state of feeling happiness and sadness at the same time.”
Natalie Chami adopted the TALsounds moniker in 2009 for her solo explorations in the drone, ambient, and electro-acoustic improv disciplines. In live performance, Chami's analog synthesizers weave together into drifting loops that evolve in tandem with her vocal leads and choral harmonies. Her meditative sessions stretch into hypnotizing depths of stream-of-consciousness multi-instrumental input, sinking into expanses of infinite sustain and cresting into bursts of noise from an arsenal of oscillators and effects pedals. After a series of tape releases on labels like Hausu Mountain and Moog's own physical imprint, Chami released her first TALsounds LP, Love Sick, with New York's Ba Da Bing Records. As a member of free music trio Good Willsmith, she has toured the country and released eight albums since 2012, including the LPs The Honeymoon Workbook (2014) and Things Our Bodies Used To Have (2016) on Mexico City-based label Umor Rex. Chami also performs as half of ambient duo l'eternebre. She is Lebanese, was born in Ontario, and lives in Chicago.