Volker Bertelmann (born 1966 in Kreuztal) is a German pianist and composer who mainly performs and records under the name Hauschka. He is best known for his compositions for prepared piano.
Life and career:
Volker Bertelmann grew up in the village of Ferndorf in the district of Siegen-Wittgenstein, North Rhine-Westphalia. The fifth of six children, he discovered piano playing at the age of eight at a Christmas church service. He began studying classical piano and continued taking lessons for the next ten years.
Bertelmann formed his first rock band when he was fourteen. During the following years he was commissioned to compose music for television and sang in a number of other bands. After leaving school he moved to Cologne, where he began studying medicine and then switched to a course in business economics, but gave up both in order to concentrate on music. In 1992, he and his cousin Oliver Lodge-Philips formed the hip-hop duo God's Favorite Dog, who became known above all for their track Love and Pain. They released an album and went on to perform nationally and internationally, among others as a support act for Die Fantastischen Vier. The duo was unable to build on this initial success, however, with the result that they lost their recording contract and eventually split up.
After a period of drifting, Bertelmann moved to Düsseldorf and started making music again, drawing on his years of classical piano training. He composed pieces for piano and released them under the alias Hauschka - a reference to the Bohemian composer Vincenz Hauschka as well as to Dr. Hauschka skin care products.
The first Hauschka album Substantial was released in 2004 on the Cologne label Karaoke Kalk, followed in 2005 by The Prepared Piano on the same label. On this second album Bertelmann explored the possibilities of the prepared piano by wedging pieces of leather, felt or rubber between the piano strings, wrapping aluminium foil around the hammers, placing small objects on the strings or joining them together with guitar strings or adhesive tape. In 2007 the remix album Versions Of The Prepared Piano was released, featuring new interpretations of the original tracks by the likes of Eglantine Gouzy, Barbara Morgenstern, Nobukazu Takemura, Wechsel Garland, Frank Bretschneider, Mira Calix and Tarwater.
In 2007 Bertelmann signed a recording contract with 130701, an imprint of FatCat Records. On the 2008 album Ferndorf he collaborated with cellists, trombonists and violinists. Following a concert performance with the Magik*Magik Orchestra, Bertelmann decided to integrate other musical instruments into his compositions, and in January 2010 the resulting works were performed in San Francisco by an orchestra led by Minna Choi. With Ian Pellicci as the sound engineer, they were recorded in John Vanderslice's Tiny Telephone studio. Volker Bertelmann then recorded the piano tracks at Studio Zwei in Düsseldorf, and the album Foreign Landscapes was released on the 130701 label later that year.
On his 2011 album Salon des Amateurs Bertelmann collaborated with notable musicians such as Samuli Kosminen (Múm, Edea) and Hilary Hahn, as well as Calexico's Joey Burns and John Convertino. These recordings were originally intended as a joint release with Foreign Landscapes, whereby on the one hand the piano was going to be just one instrument among many, and on the other it was to be used primarily as a rhythm instrument. The recorded pieces did not fit together in the way Bertelmann had envisaged, however, so he decided to release the two albums separately. Foreign Landscapes represents a shift of focus away from the prepared piano as a solo instrument, while Salon des Amateurs signals a move towards a more strongly rhythmic approach.
In 2012 Bertelmann wrote the score for the film Glück, directed by Doris Dörrie. In May 2012 Silfra, a collaborative album with the American violinist Hilary Hahn, was released on Deutsche Grammophon. Named after the Silfra rift in Iceland, it consists of twelve improvisations by Bertelmann and Hahn that were recorded by Valgeir Sigurdsson at Greenhouse Studios in Reykjavík.
Bertelmann is a member of Music A.M., a side project involving Stefan Schneider of To Rococo Rot and Luke Sutherland of Long Fin Killie. In collaboration with Torsten Mauss he also releases electronic music under the alias Tonetraeger.
Volker Bertelmann lives with his wife and his three kids in Düsseldorf.