Decibel Fest Day 2: Hauschka Put a Vibrator in his Piano (As Well Many Other Things)

(Above: An example of Hauschka doing his plinkery piano thing)

That pile of stuff you see to the right was all inside of Hauschka’s piano last night at Benaroya Hall.

The top of a pot. A tiny tambourinee. Beer bottle caps. Chop sticks. Cellophane. A jingle bell. Ball bearings. The list goes on.

For those unfamiliar with Hauschka, the German pianist is sort of the Nikola Tesla of prepared piano, a technique pioneered by John Cage that can be summed up as “throwing a bunch of stuff in a piano to make it sound cooler.” While any idiot can throw some screws and a ping pong ball in a piano and make neat pinkery sounds, Hauschka takes the esoteric art to mad genius levels of inspiration.

Last night, his most clever new trick was taping a vibrator to the piano’s bass string. When he switched the vibrator on, the effect simulated the drone of a sitar. By throwing two e-bows on as well (a device that causes strings to vibrate with electromagnetism) he conjured up icy cascades of sound that didn’t resemble a concert piano in any way, shape or form. In that way, Decibel was a more than suiting place for Hauschka to show his stuff—although he’s a pianist, he essentially plays a highly percussive form of “acoustic electronica.” Listen to “Radar” to hear what I mean.

Hauschka performed four movements that ranged in tone from ornate European sounding classicism to hip hop and even EDM. Hauschka hooked up a trigger to one of the piano keys that pushed huge wubby bass through Benaroya, giving his piano a low end that took his composition to a completely different place.

Halfway through the set, Hauschka stopped and grabbed the microhphone.

“Those beer bottle caps, I have no idea where they went. I think they flew out. My whole program was based on those... that’s why I stopped,” Hauschka apologized as the crowd chuckled. At the end of the performance, Hauschka made ripping the taped doodads out of the piano part of the show. Each object’s “zzzrip!” echoed with the help of a delay effect, making for a spooky and climactic end to the incredible performance.

On a bonus note: Hauschka mentioned he is currently working on an opera about the Flying Dutchman, as well as a horror film. Sign me up.

 
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