The Closeness between Music and Art

Hauschka | © Mareike Foecking

Hauschka – real name Volker Bertelmann - is a classically trained pianist who combines chamber music sensibilities with pop-cultural interests and a strong affiliation for electronic music. In addition to his prolific solo work, Volker Bertelmann has collaborated with other artists in the fields of music, film, theatre, dance and art. For example, he worked with Stefan Schneider (To Rococo Rot, Kreidler) who performed at the Goethe-Institut in Sydney in 2015 with Sven Kacirek, and Volker’s music can be heard in the Doris Dörrie film Bliss, which was shown in our 2013 Audi Festival of German Films.

Düsseldorf is usually associated with the Kling Klang Studio, Kraftwerk and Neu!. Bands such as To Rococo Rot and Mouse on Mars picked up on this aesthetic. Your work is more acoustic but also explores repetition. Do you see yourself as part of a ‘Düsseldorf tradition’?

I quite like the idea of following the tradition of Düsseldorf electronic music. I think that there is a sense of minimalism and reduction, which I like. When I compose music I think it is great to play with association and abstraction, and using these formats it enables you to avoid clichés. Very important in Düsseldorf is the closeness between music and art which I think is very inspiring. I love going to exhibitions and I think it helps to find new perspectives.

There is a lot of Myth

A version of Kraftwerk is still touring and the Düsseldorf band DAF (Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft), which features in the Geniale Dilletanten exhibition, have reformed several times. Are there connections between the ‘older’ and the ‘younger’ local music scene?

No, not really because once you are touring you are out of town a lot, and it is hard to keep in touch, simply for practical reasons. But I think this is probably similar in other cities as well. I think there is a lot of myth about scenes. I think in a lot of cases styles are starting simultaneously all over the world, including some of these cities… in a way, the fact that the bands you mentioned might know each other doesn’t mean that they’re connected. Maybe the most common denominator is that they all have their roots in electronic music.

You have been influenced by other artists using prepared pianos, and you openly explain your own practice. Other artists are more secretive. Do you ever fear that your ideas may be copied?

They are already copied and they will be copied more. I think by letting the protection go, I am able to grow without building my career on gadgets. It is also nice to see that my way of working is influencing people. One thing I feel is that people should ask me when they use an idea that is very strongly identified with my style, out of respect. But some artists think that everything they see is theirs and they can use it without any communication. I don’t like that attitude. But in general I am very open to share.

Hauschka gives me some Freedom

You used to play in bands and have used the artist name Hauschka for your solo work. Have you considered dropping this artist name to perform under the name Volker Bertelmann?

No, not really, as it gives me some freedom. I think in combination with the piano my real name would appear like I am a solo pianist… but I don’t consider myself a solo artist only. I rather think that I am working on many different levels to perform and compose music that I like.

You have collaborated with many very diverse artists, and constantly explore projects in the world of film, theatre, and visual art. What have you got lined up next?

I am working on a dance piece right now called A City is Seeking its Bodies by the choreographer Alexandra Waierstall and I am preparing a dance piece with a Korean dance company that will be performed in the hometown of Sibelius. This piece is based on The Swan Of Tumula, which is a very old Finnish story. I will perform the music with Samuli Kosminen, drummer of the band MUM from Iceland. In addition, there are new films coming up, and I want to focus a little bit more on that in 2016. Besides that I am writing pieces for classical ensembles at the moment.

Post-classical composer who uses prepared piano to create percussive patterns and other sounds akin to contemporary electronic music.