Hauschka and Dustin O’HalloranPosted by Suzi Pratt
To See Rating: 7/10
Just Curious Rating: 8/10
The piano is a classic instrument that capable of producing a wide range of musical sounds; last night at The Triple Door, two very talented composers, Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka, approached the piano with different perspectives, sharing the unique melodies with their audience. Given the obvious need for a grand piano, The Triple Door with its chic theater atmosphere served as an ideal venue. As guests wined and dined, Dustin O’Halloran sat at the piano in center stage, bathed in dark red lighting with soft, glowing lights swimming on the backdrop screen.
The view of the piano presented by O’Halloran is deeply rooted in classical tradition. His music is delicate and gentle, with implicit sensations of beauty and reflection conveyed with every note that give O’Halloran’s music a very cinematic feel. When listening to him play, one can close their eyes and glimpse a Hollywood moment, say from Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette or Will Ferrell’s Stranger Than Fiction, perfectly suited to go along with an O’Halloran score. Indeed, O’Halloran’s music was so adept at fitting into the background scene that the clanking of glasses and silverware, and even the faint buzz of music from a nearby venue, all were magnified throughout part of the set.
Crisply dressed in attire that blended in with the darkened venue, O’Halloran was soft-spoken while on stage, only addressing the crowd a couple of times, choosing to focus on his performance. I caught up with him after the show, and though he retained his quiet on-stage demeanor, he was kind and friendly. He revealed that he and Hauschka would be wrapping up their three-week tour in his home base of California later this week, and that one of their final performances will take place at a cemetery. If you are down in the LA-region soon, be sure to check that show out. O’Halloran also hinted at a new album of his to be released hopefully by the end of this year, and a special edition album with custom, handmade artwork that will soon be available for purchase on his website. Keep your ears peeled for O’Halloran as he continues to make waves in both the cinematic and musical worlds.
Never before will you imagine that the inner workings of a piano can be taped together and littered with junk and still be functional until you see Hauschka, or Volker Bertelmann, perform live. This German composer and pianist cut to the chase in his introduction, telling the audience that for him, every show is approached as a new beginning, and he often will play pieces that have never before been heard or recorded. Part of the unpredictability factor is due to his musical arrangement of literally taking every random bit of junk he can find and embedding it within the internal piano strings to produce experimental piano music. For this particular show, Hauschka announced that he had included ten vibrators to his assortment of junk, going on to humorously narrate his buying the vibrators from a German public restroom using pocket change. The audience roared with laughter, as well as curiosity. Can vibrators and pianos ever achieve musical harmony? Hauschka proved to us that he could make it happen.
Watching Hauschka perform is entertainment in itself, also helping illustrate how he achieves his sounds independently. Listening to his previous recordings, such as 2008′s Ferndorf, suggests that Hauschka plays with accompanying musicians. While he does indeed collaborate with violinists and such, this particular performance was centered around Hauschka, a piano, and a bag of goodies. When playing the piano, Hauschka would often pause to arrange items within the piano, pull objects out of the piano and drop them to the floor, or even take a bag of junk and dump it into the piano. The sounds resulting from these simple actions, merged with Hauschka’s piano-playing, creating the unique musical sound that is Hauschka.
The effect of having piano strings taped and laden with papers, sticks, and, yes, vibrators, is an avant-garde piano sound that at times has the sound qualities of a stringed instrument, or the echoing electronic music effect. Hauschka at one point spoke of his first big album release and his joy at having been labeled “indie” and “electronic,” hoping to spread the piano to others by way odifferent genres. After the biggest moment of his show when he dumped a shopping bag full of junk into the piano, which included ping pong balls that popped out of the piano like popcorn, Hauschka smiled and said, “That was so much fun…the balls are triggering me rather than I am triggering them.” Like a true artist, he takes pleasure in allowing his music to mold him as much as he molds it.
This live Hauschka show was one of a kind, with very few songs ever recorded or heard before. Catch a couple of these songs in the video below, including the “biggest moment of the show” at the midway point.