Classical music star Hilary Hahn branching out into improv pieces with Hauschka
Hilary Hahn is known as something of a classical music wunderkind. She debuted at a young age and has become renowned for her work. But her latest effort sounds almost nothing like what's come before. Rather than the classics, she's improving sounds, accompanied by a "prepared" piano.
Hilary Hahn is a heavy hitter in classical music, a violinist who debuted at 12 and recorded the Bach partitas at 18.
She’s powered through the repertoire, mastering Paganini, the Mozart sonatas, the Brahms concerto, Schoenberg ad Ives. In her 20s, she began stretching beyond classical music, playing alongside singer-songwriters like Josh Ritter.
Her new project, though, takes her even further outside the box.
Silfra is a collaboration between Hahn and Volker Bertelmann, a German musician who performs as Hauschka. The two met through Tom Brosseau, a singer-songwriter and mutual friend.
Hauschka’s instrument is a “prepared” piano, its insides carefully altered with duct tape, felt mutes, bottle caps, and bits of junk so that the keys produce radically different timbres and rhythmic elements.
At times he may play the strings with guitar devices like the E-bow.
The music Hahn and Hauschka make is completely improvised. They’ll take a melodic fragment or texture and play with it as a composition emerges spontaneously.
"To be quite honest, I think it's a very spontaneous way of living,” Hauschka said. “I love that a lot, to just go into a situation and think about it quickly, not having too much fuss about it."
The music might sound disconcerting to Hahn’s legion of classical fans. It’s sometimes disarmingly simple, even folksy; sometimes abrasive; sometimes ambient.
“I learned to play the violin by playing classical music, and there's so much variety in classical music that even the unusual techniques I use to get sound out of the instrument at various times, various environments, those also come from classical music,” Hahn said.
The duo is experimenting in other ways as well. Based on feedback from Twitter, they performed an entire song based on a single tone row — improvising the whole thing.
Listen to Haun and Hauschka perform Stillness:
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