Hauschka (real name Volker Bertelmann) is a contemporary German pianist and producer known for his soaring solo pieces and use of everyday objects to make every piano he makes into a different sounding, personalised musical instrument.
He sat down and spoke to us about losing sleep, getting older and the value of technology in music.
I think music’s noblest cause is to get people to forget time.
Because they can get in different state of mind which I think makes them feel alive in a way but at the same time disconnected. Maybe a little bit like meditation. It’s one of the most wonderful things about music that it can get you to trigger your fantasy or your mind in a way so you can relax.
I’m quite a calm person because I play so much music I think at least I’m getting into a meditative situation every day.
I think there are many things that can be your muse on a daily basis or in smaller portions.
You get influenced by so many things that in the evening when you go to your room where you sleep you are filled with a lot of things that have happened. During making music you’re also influenced by all of your surroundings, they can seem trivial – a muse sounds a bit like you’re sitting in the café drinking your coffee and there’s suddenly something so inspiring like the spirit comes over you. In my case that’s not true, maybe even a small thing in a day can totally change my whole outlook.
I’m most inspired in the morning.
Right after I stand up. This is the most focussed, powerful energy I have in the day. The routine changes, it depends a little bit upon where I am – if I’m on the road I’m in hotels and the hotel routine is different from my home routine. At home we are many people and we have a small son who has just been born so the routine is quite based around him, he needs the routine much more than us – we follow his routine. I’m very thankful for that because I’m a big fan for being in a structure which is not in general your own structure, that is someone else’s, you don’t have to think about it you know you have to get up at 6.
Before a concert there are certain things I need to prepare my state of mind,
on a concert day the biggest problem is saving energy, the whole day is building up to this moment in the evening. You drive somewhere you meet people you find your place to sleep but all this time you have in mind the night of the performance. To be in the right shape exactly at the time you go on stage. That’s the biggest art form. You have to concentrate on what you eat, when you sleep, if you sleep, when you wake up, when energy is back in your body, it’s a long experience. My routine depends on where I am, if I have the time I like to find a place where I can sleep and I like to do as little as physically possible and then I am getting started an hour/an hour and a half before the concert to set my mind towards the concert. I like to have some quietness half an hour before.
My favourite lullaby is Die Moon ist Auf Geganum –
this very old German ‘goodnight’ song. The author is Goethe or someone, someone famous but I have to look it up! The melody of this song is beautiful. I think there are older composers who have done older versions of it. It’s a beautiful song, it has some very misty lyrics that talk about the fog that slowly comes into the valley and there is God who protects you overnight. The song means in English ‘the moon is rising’, this is the German translation – a protector in a way.
The only thing that causes me to lose sleep is excitement.
Good excitement. I mean, of course, that implicates negative excitement as well. When its late at night or when my daughters are on the road – mostly I can’t sleep until everyone is at home
Age has brought me some wisdom, definitely.
Wisdom means you need life experience and that comes through age. But this doesn’t’ mean that you can’t be wise when you’re young. But I would say the wiser you are when you’re young the wiser you are when you’re old. The only thing I can say that can help this state of mind along is to have patience.
Technology can both hinder musical progress as well as promote it,
music as itself or an instrument or anything, you can use – not to say there’s good or bad tech – there’s always a side that opens up with tech and there’s a side that closes down. It happens with all sorts of inventions, I think it’s good to not protect but at least remember all of the strength you had beforehand. It’s very wise to take all of the things you know with you and all of the generations that came before it – in a society where the wisdom is no longer given from older people to younger people because we live in an unstructured society where you have to find people very specifically to get the knowledge you want. If you want to work with technology you have to keep the old knowledge in mind.
I love the era for classical music that is at the time of Schoenberg before his 12 tone phase –
when he was writing for clarter nacht I think this great realisation was happening at this time and even though we had no pollution at the time in the atmosphere I think everything was quite dark because a lot of coal was being burned, the smell of coal was in the air and people started big companies and maybe there was a sort of Gotham City atmosphere in certain places. Maybe im totally romanticizing but combined with the music, pictures and art at the time it feels as though it’s coming out of a different time and went into a very modern time. It was the time of modernism.
Hauschka’s sheet music can be found here – it’s truly a beautiful book and a joy to play: