Hauschka is the stage name of German classically trained pianist and composer Volker Bartelmann. He’s been in a few bands from a few different genres over the years. He’s been in rock bands and hip hop bands, but his main thing is piano composition. He’s most known for composing music for prepared pianos. That’s a technique that was pioneered by John Cale in the late 1930s. It calls for objects such as cardboard, leather strips, tape, coins, ping-pong balls, nails, pieces of cutlery, e-bows, stones, etc to be applied to the piano strings or to the hammers in order to manipulate the sound output. The general rule for piano preparation is that the object must be removable without causing damage to the piano.
Here he is playing one of his prepared piano pieces.
In 2004, Bartelmann put out his first record as Hauschka. My understanding is that Substantial is straight piano. All of the subsequent albums were composed for prepared piano. There have been eleven albums since then, and some of them have featured other musicians and some elements of electronic music, but most are written and performed solo. Sure, there are some effects loops and things like that, but it’s just one man and a piano.
In 2014, Bartelmann released Abandoned City, which was inspired by a bunch of real-life ghost towns and abandoned cities. Remember the most recent album —Piramida by Efterklang? Sort of like that. Most of the song titles on Abandoned City are the names of actual ghost towns, and “Stromness” is the last song on that album. The name is a reference to a former whaling outpost in the south Atlantic. It’s on the mountainous and glaciated island of South Georgia. Not to be confused with Soviet Georgia or the US Georgia. Maybe you’ll remember that South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands were part of the Falklands War of 1982. Argentina had foolishly occupied those non-militarized British territories, but England had something to say about that, and ten weeks later, order was restored.
Last week, Bartelmann released a sister album to Abandoned City, entitled A NDO C Y. Just remove some of the letters from “Abandoned City”, and that’s what you get. Five of the seven tracks on A NDO C Y were written during the Abandoned City sessions, and two are remixes. Devendra Banhart reworked “Agdam”, and Matthew Robert Cooper (aka Eluvium) beautifully reworked “Stromness”, turning it from a plucky, somewhat peppy thing into an amazingly ambient piece.
This is that song:
“Stromness (Eluvium remix)” by Hauschka
I can just barely even recognize this as a rework of “Stromness”. It’s more like an original Eluvium piece. Either way, it’s amazing, and I’ve been obsessing about it all day.
Buy Abandoned City in physical form here.