Interview with Hauschka (aka Volker Bertelmann)

It’s not every day you get to have a chat with an Oscar nominated film composer. But that’s what we just did. Hauschka, the incredible co-composer of the score for Lion, kindly agreed to talk to us about his work scoring the film, and his upcoming solo album What If. What struck us most about speaking with Hauschka is how humble he is about his massive talent, and the lengths he is prepared to go to ensure he is always authentic to the needs of the music. This is a composer who entwines deep philosophical thinking with sonic experimentation to create wholly unique, often mind-bending works of true musical art.

The Interview

What If

The sound on Hauschka’s eighth album What If is unmistakably him, but more immediate and full-bodied than its predecessors. And despite this confidently direct new sound, paradoxically it’s also his most wild – organising chaos into a coherent, left-field masterpiece.Creating What If, Bertelmann used an old Roland Jupiter 4 synthesizer and an Eventide H3000 Harmonizer, as well as engaging with his trademark technique of utilizing unusual objects to treat (or ‘prepare’) the piano. But most notably – in a break from his traditional methodology – he also programmed parts for self-playing ‘player pianos’ (also known as pianolas), exploiting the speed at which they could play, manipulating the resulting sounds, and building layers to emphasize a composition’s meter. Yet again, Hauschka has proven uncommonly inventive, expanding his range even further by defying expectations and coaxing ever more unprecedented, euphonic sounds from his instrument.Encompassing haunting melodies, mysterious sounds, pristine ambience, minimalism, frenetic buzz, vintage sci-fi echo, complex patterns and at times powerful propulsive rhythms What If crowns an extraordinary couple of years for Bertelmann. He has found his presence as a film composer increasing, working on scores for a number of documentaries and feature films including James Franco’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s In Dubious Battle and, alongside Dustin O’Halloran, Garth Davis’ Lion, for which they’ve both been nominated for an Oscar.

What If represents the culmination of everything he’s worked towards these past dozen or so years. “I was always attracted by hip hop, deep rhythms and weird sci-fi electronica. It is a result of both that and the hundreds of concerts I’ve played, where I developed a way of mixing all these elements together”, he explains.

Likely to prove one of 2017’s most original albums, while at the same time inspiring questions about the very nature of the world we inhabit, What If redefines the very notion of piano music in a dramatic and exceptional fashion.

You can pre-order What If now.

James is a movie obsessive with a particular love for scores and screenplays. He has written for numerous blogs, sites and cinemas and has been involved in several screenwriting projects. He can usually be found in front of a large plasma screen devouring Westerns, 80s pulp, Jimmy Stewart movies or anything by the Coens.