Truth to Power

Volker Bertelman and his whacked out piano

Ten-year-old Volker Bertelman couldn’t afford a synthesizer, so he modified the family piano to sound like a harpsichord by pressing metal tacks into its hammers. Mom was not amused, but she couldn’t have known that her little boy would soon make a living doing more or less the same thing.

Bertelman has become an accomplished player of the “prepared” piano – a piano that has been modified by any number of hardware additions – under the name Hauschka. For a typical piece, he makes more than 20 adjustments to the innards of a grand or upright piano using duct tape, felt, cellophane, bottle caps, leather wedges, aluminum foil, sheets of paper and E-bows (normally used to sustain notes on an electric guitar), as well as materials donated by his fans.

“Wherever I play, people are surprised,” Bertelman told Wired.com in an extensive interview. “When I’m playing in front of an indie audience, people are just discovering more classical music. And when I play in front of a classical audience, people are surprised by how experimental a piano concert can be. </em>


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