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Oscar-nominated composer Hauschka rips open the piano on “Constant Growth Fails”

German composer Volker Bertelmann’s moody, propulsive score for Lion—which he created in tandem with A Winged Victory For The Sullen’s Dustin O’Halloran—is a transformative work that saves the film from falling into standard, syrupy-stringed melodrama. It rightly earned him an Oscar nomination, and in any other year he might be a serious contender, but let’s be real: Everything, including Mica Levi’s equally innovative work for Jackie, is likely going to get crushed under the La La Land sweep.

Nevertheless, it’s been a big year for Bertelmann, who’s rightly getting mainstream exposure after releasing more than a dozen albums under the name Hauschka, where he continually explores the possibilities of “prepared piano”—a stuffy name for what is, essentially, just taking things like leather and aluminum foil and shoving them into his piano strings. This Glenn Gould by way of Glenn Branca process elevates his piano’s sound into something spacious, kinetic, and unpredictable, as heard in this exclusive premiere track from the upcoming What If, due March 31 on Temporary Residence Ltd. (U.S.) / City Slang (EU).


For his new album, which he describes as his “most radical,” Bertelmann moves beyond his usual piano treatments to bring in vintage synthesizers, noise, and experiments with manipulated player pianos. On “Constant Growth Fails,” Bertelmann utilizes all of these to create an interlocking, repeating, whirling dervish of a piece that recalls the hypnotic, minimalist phasing work of Steve Reich, coaxing an entire orchestra of plucked phrases, electronic bleeps, and other polyphonic sounds from his instruments. You can preorder What If here.

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