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15 Questions to Hauschka

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hi, i am fine and i am in duesseldorf in my flat.

What’s on your schedule right now?
Music-wise i am rehearsing next week with my band Music AM and i am preparing two hauschka concerts in berlin at the end of november.

The title of your latest album, “The Prepared Piano” was sure to draw comparisons with some influential artists such as John Cage. Weren’t you afraid that this was going to hang over the work like a big cloud, hiding its own character?
I was a little bit afraid but then i thought i'd name the album after what you can expect. I think certain possibilities of experimentation don`t exclusively belong to one or two people. Also, each experiment with this sound will reach a different crowd and i think i reached also people who haven`t heard about john cage or who don`t like his music. Of course, the listener needs to be open minded and has to give new piano music its own chance.

Of course, those “role models” only tell half of the story. In which way, would you say, is your own personality reflected in the music, what distinguishes your “prepared piano” from Cage’s?

I think my music with the prepared piano is a mirror of my musical socialisation and my character. I have my roots in classical music and pop music. I always listened and danced to music with beats and bass. So the roots for my piano music are more orientated on melody and songs than John Cage`s compositions. The similarity is that the compositions are made in the moment, improvised and spontaneous – it just derives from my character. I heard that John Cage`s compositions are also very spontaneous.

What is the special appeal of using a real piano? You could have chosen to use a Synthesizer instead and manipulated the piano sound even more...
The instrument i learned as a child was the piano and i tried with this record to get an approximation towards electronic music with layering percussive and repeatative sounds over each other and all that with an instrument that i could always play live without any help. To use synthesizers and to use the piano maybe as an element was not my intention.

How would you describe or characterise your composing process?

I recorded the cd in the welsh mountains with my friend Adam Fuest. He was recording and i was sitting on the piano and played tons of scetches. The ones i liked most i put back on and either worked on them again, trying to further define the melodies or the rhythm and sometimes i also did overdubs with percussive preparations.

Then i went to Germany and i add here and there some sparkles of other instruments and then i mixed it. It was then that I found out that there was very little to add, because you need to know that all that is coming from one instrument.

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?

I think it depends. Sound can be the beginning of a wonderfull composition but it can also cover up a miserable composition. With the piano, it was a gift to prepare it because it completely influences the way you play the instrument rhythmically. I also use different tones when one is missing or sounds very quiet.

Will “The Prepared Piano” go on tour? And on a more general level: What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion?
Yes i hope i can go on tour in february 2006. For me a good live performance brings across the enthousiasm of the artist and the audience is a part of an extraordinary moment that they can`t have at home. When i perform i found out that i can reach this with improvising at least 50% of the gig. So one concert will be completely unique, never to appear again in the same way.

What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?

I don`t know if you can still speak about a crisis. In terms of this country, i thnk germany is at the moment in a very strong creative phase, where also the traditional pop countries suddenly feel a certain interest. We have not such a big history in modern pop music and this seems to be a gift at the moment.

Imagine a situation in which there’d be no such thing as copyright and everybody were free to use musical material as a basis for their own compositions – would that be an improvement to the current situation?

I think it is one part of using music but there must always be a kind of security for a composer getting paid for what he has created. Especially in the small independent business, it would be important that enough money reaches the artist to carry on and not to get money from working in a copy shop. The real bad thing is that people who earn a lot of money with music earn more and more because of the bad policy of royalty companies. It would be much better to have a certain budget to put it in to new upcoming creative people than to give again to the richest.

Some feel there is no need to record albums any more, that there is no such thing as genuinely “new” music. What do you tell them? Is “new” an important aspect of what you want your pieces to be?

No, not at all. I want my music to be unique but because i am influenced by a lot of stuff it is just a mixture of different styles. Each listener has a different association with my music. One guy said for example: "I haven't heard such music in my whole life"? Well, i think that was because he never came accross it. But it was already there. The beautifull part about it is, that i introduced it to him - What a pleasure! All the rest are stupid thoughts, because i can`t help myself writing music, recording it and try to bring it to the public.

Do you feel an artist has a certain duty towards anyone but himself? Or to put it differently: Should art have a poltical/social or any other aspect apart from a personal sensation?

I think art can have a political and social aspect but it is not a law. Apart from the personal sensation, an artist just goes to work and does something that he is able to do. So it is a fullfillment of his lifetime and when there are people out there who feel with the output then it is great – but it could also happen that the artist dies unknown and lonely. So i think you have to feel the political and social aspect in your own work, which in a way already exists when you bring it out.

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
I would try to organize concerts that give an overview of very nice unknown labels or music categories. Like only piano music coming from an electronic background, unknown pianists playing with famous ones and so on..... i organized a piano festival in düsseldorf which happened on 4 days and each evening had two piano players. They all had releases on small labels and each one was unique. For me it was a pleasure to watch all these musicians that had something in common and were completely different. A lot of people where thankfull afterwards to have such an concentrated input of seldom and unknown piano music. Maybe that is one possibility.....

A lot of people feel that some of the radical experiments of modern compositions can no longer be qualified as “music”. Would you draw a border – and if so, where?
I am completely against these arguments. This reminds me of arguments of rasists. Who can say what is music and what isn`t? I really hate sometimes this attitude in reviews. I think that you can do what ever you like and if you find an audience for that: great. If not – also fine. What music is and what it isn`t, is i think defined by the need of it. If my taste is different – that is something else and understandable.

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?

I'll dream of it when it is realistic. My life is full of ideas and small dreams. I will carry on working on those. I am open for all kind of sounds.....

Substantial (Karaoke Kalk) 2004
The Prepared Piano (Karaoke Kalk) 2005


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