srijeda, 5. lipnja 2013.

Hilary Hahn & Hauschka - Silfra (2012)

Jedan od najboljih neo-klasičnih albuma u zadnje vrijeme. Violinistička zvijezda Hahn i inovator prepariranog klavira Hauschka (Volker Bertelmann) improviziraju i tretiraju klasiku kao da je free jazz.

Yes, you are on the right website. No, we are not going mainstream now. But why then a review of a record on Deutsche Grammophon, the keeper of the Grail when it comes to classical music? And why an album by Hilary Hahn, the American Grammy Award winning violinist, who has hardly ever crossed the boundaries of classical music? Well, the answer is quite simple: The music on this album is completely improvised and Hahn, who improvises here for the very first time in her career, has teamed up with Volker Bertelmann, the German innovator of prepared-piano also known as Hauschka.

Inspired by Eric Satie and John Cage but also jazz musicians like Sun Ra, Hauschka is a prolific improviser who thinks that “it’s enormously important to get out of your individual bubble, and also to work with someone opens a lot of doors in your creativity.” So improvisation is the foundation of his work with Hilary Hahn and in order to make this possible they have worked together for two years exchanging files over the internet or ideas in rehearsal studios, where they regularly met “to create a kind of natural understanding”, Hauschka said in an interview.

Finally they developed certain goals where their project aesthetically should lead to but they had nothing written down when they met in Iceland to work with Valgeir Sigurðsson, who has worked with artists as different Björk and Bonnie Prince Billy. “The location and that particular studio,” Hahn said in an interview, “really helped us to get out of our own heads and away from our individual contexts.”

For Hauschka, who usually unsettles a conservative classical audience by putting small pieces of metal, clips, table tennis balls or different kinds of foils into his piano’s strings, sound exploration, randomness and spontaneity are crucial elements of music. Hahn is contributing to this spontaneous way of composing by adding sparse but concentrated (sometimes overdubbed) parts to the songs. Many songs work with clusters, that’s why there is a strong repetitive element which puts the music close to electronics.

However, “Silfra” is an album about nature and the central piece of the album, the 12-minute “Godot”, captures some of this spirit Hahn and Hauschka felt on Iceland while recording. The prepared piano sounds like metallic drizzle – very percussive, the violin is reserved, almost floating like an echo over the track and therefore creating a somber and nostalgic atmosphere. It is music for a personal soundtrack in your heads, I listened to it while watching the clouds and the wind in the treetops before a storm came up and I could literally feel the intensity of the playing.

“North Atlantic” refers to Iceland’s natural wonders – the piano sounding metallic again bringing up images of the breaking of the waves or geysers shooting water, Hahn adding minimal phrases as if she was playing while watching northern lights. The whole track is an improvised conversation of melodies and rhythms, music that would dissolve if you repeated it.

Silfra is a geographic feature near Reykjavik, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, a metaphor for the working process of the musicians. There is a great natural elegance, a calmness (“Stillness” is the name of the first track), and simplicity tangible on the album, it is just plain beautiful. Give it a try. - Martin Schray

Hilary Hahn & Hauschka : Classical & Crazy

Hilary Hahn & Haushka on Echoes
We recently had classical violinist Hilary Hahn and German pianist Hauschka on Echoes talking about their collaboration,Silfra.  It’s a work of ethereal atmospheres, frozen fragments and deep spaces redolent of the location where they recorded it, Iceland.  They played live on the show and this past week we ran an interview with the two artists talking about their collaboration.  You can hear the interview now as a a free iTunes Podcast.
Here’s a snippet from their interview which begins with Haushka explaining his prepared piano preparations.
Hauschka: There are chopsticks that I use for drum sounds, and there is an EBow that creates a sustained note.  There is a cheap necklace from $1 shop that is very light, but it is the object that I like the most because it has a very nice harpsichord sound.  And then there is a chicken egg on the lowest F on the piano that creates a kind of like off beat, like tambourine or shake on the note.
It’s called a prepared piano, a technique made famous by John Cage in the 1940s.  With his objects muting the strings, creating odd vibrations, un-piano like overtones and acoustic glitches, Hauschka turns his instrument into one-man orchestra from Bizarro World.  It’s an otherworldly and haunting sound that Hauschka makes and it’s just what Hilary Hahn was looking for.
Hilary Hahn:  I was really trying to get away from the assumptions about violin because I think violin can do a lot of different things.  I had tried preparing the violin because Hauschka prepares the piano, but I, I found in combination with the piano the violin’s preparations just faded to almost inaudible.  And what I concluded was the best way to interact aurally was just to create these different sound worlds with what the violin can already do with just various techniques that I’ve learned over the years.
You can hear Hilary Hahn & Hauschka talking about their collaboration in a podcast of their interview up now on iTunes.
~© 2012 John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

I was prepared for this to be terrible. After all, these things never do work out. Make no mistake, Silfra isn’t the brave new world it’s been lauded to be. It’s not even good, really. But for what I was expecting — and, fair enough, what I had read about this one — I don’t exactly hate it. Of the 12 cheeky miniatures here, only a thimbleful dare break the three-minute-mark. In fact, only one (the buggery of, what else could take so long, “Godot”) times in at double digits. If anything, none of these would-be aphorisms sticks around long enough to be anything more than moderately cloying. And for a free sonata matching Hilary Hahn’s four-string histrionics to the clingyklangfarben of Volker Bertelmann (a.k.a. Hauschka), such blasé results might be this disc’s only strength.
To be fair, I never carried any torches for Ms. Hahn — not even in her teens. It wasn’t because she wasn’t talented. No, prodigies are overworked, under-socialized mimes who, because of their handlers, rarely add anything of worth to the standard rep’s discourse. (There’s a reason why 13-year-olds play Bach, Beethoven and Brahms instead of Barber, Babbitt or Bielawa.) Of course, now that Hahn’s turned 30, she’s finally freed: free to leave Sony BMG, free to record concerti by Schoenberg and Jennifer Higdon, free to commission her own encores, free to scratch along, unrehearsed, with Hauschka’s prepared piano.
It turns out, however, Hilary Hahn’s not yet ready for free improv. On a tune like “Bounce Bounce,” as kinetic and angular as it is, it’s Bertelmann that has to tell her how high. Ibid, perhaps more so, for the ballad “Kraków”; the non-dialogue here is so generic, it might as well be a film cue. “Draw A Map,” by far the most promising ditty on the record, ends up going nowhere. I’d argue that Hahn still needs an urtext score to truly play, but again, these tracks are just too short to support any kind of grander assessment.
Sure, brevity may indeed own wit’s soul. But Hahn & Hauschka ain’t playing Webern, much less exploring Stockhausen’s momente-form. (Hell, it’s not evenTom DeLio they’re after.) In the end, then, what do we have here? Other than some inoffensive feignings at trying something new, there’s not too much else to be heard. Honestly, I can’t blame Bertelmann, per se. Save for a few moments where he’s clearly holding back, he makes the most with the partner he’s chosen. Alas, I cannot say the same for Hahn. When it comes to picking running mates outside her concert constituency, she’s better off sticking with those that vote verse-chorus-verse. - Logan K. Young

Perhaps this is not a word that anyone can use so loosely when they describe a great album. Perhaps “groundbreaking” doesn’t really apply to anything being produced by artists in any genre these days when so many things have been tried, and given the fact that Hauschka puts objects in his piano on a regular basis, and that this album’s co-producer is Valgeir Sigurðsson, who’s collaborated with and produced artists such as Björk, Nico Muhly and Ben Frost in the very same Greenhouse Studios in Reykjavik, Iceland for years,Silfra is probably not such a groundbreaking record for them. But for a new recording by Hilary Hahn, I have to say this certainly sounds to me like a groundbreaking record, and it must also be said that this is almost completely improvised by both Hilary Hahn and Hauschka, as well as co-produced by them.
Hahn, who’s already tried her hand at playing with multiple genres outside of traditional classical (You already know which ones and who she’s played with, whether you heard it from me earlier or read it from her oft-read bio, but add to this her one-off stint with a beat-boxer, and it’s clear she’s tried virtually everything except jazz), simply likes to bring her violinistic identity to whatever the other environment is, rather than do a full-on crossover. But for this recording, it seems Hahn wanted to push the envelope on her own musical identity as well as her violin’s, going as far as clamping the violin on “Sink” (Giving us the closest sound to what a prepared violin sounds like), constricting an instrument that is famous for its broad beauty and volume, or reaching the highest possible notes on the instrument on pieces like “Draw a Map” or “Halo of Honey”–notes you will most likely never hear in any of her classical repertoire.
She even channels Lisa Germano with a blues phrase in the intro for “Draw a Map”.
But “groundbreaking” or not, Silfra clearly is a journey through two artists’ images of a specific moment in a faraway place. Essentially it is an interesting experiment between people from different ends of the classical spectrum, and though Hilary Hahn appears to be the one with the most sacrifices, we’d be remiss if her presence didn’t have its effects on Hauschka’s work as well–Improvisation can’t not produce that between two players.
Even when I’m still wrapping my head around the unusual things Hahn does here (She even appears to briefly strum the fiddle on one of the pieces), the sound experiments by Hauschka done inside (and outside) the piano are fascinating even when they seem to go on a bit long, whether it’s marbles or it’s “aluminum skins of burnt tea lights” (EDITOR’S NOTE: I’ve never even seen a tea light). On pieces like “Adash” or the 12-minute epic “Godot”, Hauschka’s prepared-piano elements (some of which seem like they’re as random just as much as they are considered) can either have a soothing effect or can be on the verge of annoying, depending on what kind of day you’re having.
But pieces like “Ashes” and “Krakow” feature some gorgeous straight piano and violin, and play like moments of intermittent calm during a restless weather period.
Hauschka’s work on Silfra is brilliant and is on par with previous works, but Hahn has absolutely outdone herself, taking her own musical identity out of the concert hall violinist in the gorgeous dress, and bringing it to a neutral, bare platform and redefining it, with Hauschka’s role being almost that of a stylistic mentor. Given the artistic work and dynamics between the two soloists and Sigurðsson, the album comes off like a classical version ofElectric Ladyland.
Silfra is a twisted classic, and I hope that it is remembered for that, as well as its moments of beauty. -
"Bravo to the violin star for stepping out of her comfort zone of sheet music and fiddling about with German improviser Hauschka. The two holed up in Iceland together to whip out this album, some of it in one take. He plays with his piano’s guts as much as its keys. He plucks and plonks and drops bouncing balls on the taut strings. She hovers above his skittering, clockwork-like noises like clouds. What is it with Iceland? Like Björk and Sigur Rós, this music is both miniature and overwhelming. That’s nature in a nutshell, right?" - Time Out, Chicago -- Albums of the Week

"Having previously recorded with singer-songwriters Tom Brosseau and Josh Ritter, celebrated violinist Hilary Hahn has made another stylistic left turn with "Silfra," an evocative collaboration with avant-garde composer-pianist Volker Bertelmann, who performs under the name Hauschka. Using a piano augmented by ping-pong balls and other surprises, Haushka forms an intriguing counterpoint to Hahn's excursions, making the album's 12 atmospheric compositions sound like scores for surreal short films." - Los Angeles Times

The 32-year-old violinist Hilary Hahn has been at the lonely pinnacle of the classical A-list since she was all of 16 years old. It's not exactly a sphere that rewards, or even encourages, curiosity: The language used to assess soloists in Hahn's rarefied air comes disturbingly close the the kind used to appraise prize ponies, and the city-to-city nature of the violin-concerto circuit can make for a life that is almost as cloistered and repetitive. But Hahn has resisted stagnation, recording with alt-country singer/songwriter Josh Ritter, the folk singer Tom Brosseau, and even ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead (that's her on Worlds Apart's "To Russia My Homeland").  She never seems to be insisting on a strident break from the world of orchestral tours, commissions, and Tchaikovsky concertos with any of these new projects -- just looking for something fresh and interesting to do. It has made her career one of the most refreshingly graceful ones in classical music. No project she has undertaken has felt forced, and that includes her decision to hole up in Iceland for two months to make a record with Hauschka.
Hauschka (real name: Volker Bertelmann) is a German pianist and indie classical composer who plays his piano "prepared," i.e., with small things placed on the piano's strings to produce new tones, à la John Cage. Over a series of albums filled with wistful miniature sketches, he's built a weird little sound world where the grotesque walks arm-in-arm with the twee. His pieces evoke a world of broken, rickety instruments, populated entirely by small, limping things. They can be nerve-rendingly cute and cloying, but at their best, they evoke the peculiar sadness you might feel when looking at, say, a toy-strewn suburban lawn.
Silfra is the result of Hahn and Hauschka's disappearing into an Iceland studio, feeling their way around each other, and recording an album based on their resulting improvisations. This sounds like a recipe for an undercooked mess, but Silfra succeeds where Hauschka's solo records haven't always, in part because his world sounds fuller and more inviting with collaborators in it. Silfra feels and sounds like two serious-minded musicians growing increasingly comfortable with each other, allowing themselves to be playful and silly. Together, they have managed to build a livelier, more bustling version of Hauschka's winsome snowglobe universe.
Hahn, for her part, does something that could be considered shocking for violinists in her circle: she willfully drains her million-dollar tone of most of its prettiness. Her playing onSilfra is often sickly, wheezing or shrill, in keeping with the slightly damaged sound of Hauschka's piano. On "North Atlantic", she plays a mournful melody with a breathy, anemic tone, while Hauschka's piano produces a dry "skree" sound that pokes the eardrum like a needle. She begins "Draw a Map" with a forceful gypsy dance that starts hobbling shortly after it gets started: The two of them doodle all over the melody's pristine surface with pockmarks and scribbles. If there's a dance being done here, it's on at least one bad leg.
In the album's liner notes, Hauschka and Hahn lay out specific stories and characters for each track, and a lot of them, it turns out, involved human meddling with existing structures: "Adash", for instance, is "the name of a boy who loves music and scratches lines into his CDs to create unpredictable catches, so that he can hear a section over and over again before it skips ahead to the next part." "Clock Winder" notes: "Some mechanisms still need human interaction to function." This gleeful tinkerer's spirit is what animates Silfra. It is music about fiddling around happily with music's guts, and it's most absorbing when heard through a fat pair of high-quality headphones, where you can register every scrape, plunk, creak, and twang. - Jayson Greene

This is the first collaboration between German-born pianist Hauschka and American violinist Hilary Hahn, after singer-songwriter Tom Brosseau brought them together in 2009. In a meditative production role sits Valgeir Sigurõsson, who has worked previously with Björk, Bonnie "Prince" Billy and the French singer Camille. The resulting pieces are completely improvised, but often are suggestive of pre-meditated melodies.
Stillness leads into the jarringly-titled Bounce Bounce, which suddenly imparts agitation, Hauschka’s prepared piano setting off on a jagged gallop. Hahn flays her strings, savagely sawing. Their overdubs build up a chamber ensemble thickness, intensifying their attack. It sounds like Hauschka is slinging heavy objects into his piano interior. But despite this vigour, there’s a light deftness to the duo’s approach and technique.
The first three pieces are all short, establishing varied moods. Clock Winder has a quaintly mechanical character, principally due to Hauschka’s exotic ornamentations of his instrument.
Longer works follow, with Adash adopting a deep, mournful drone tone, Hahn’s citrusy violin recalling the singing string-voice of Gidon Kremer, her tremulous edge kept hovering as the piece builds to a surge. Meanwhile, Hauschka is threshing the piano innards again, vibrating strings into melancholy.
Godot is nearly 13 minutes long, its tiny sound events unwinding as carefully placed piano chords knit with sparse violin curlicues. Hauschka sets up a stutter with his dampened bass key, the sombre gestures exquisitely poised.
To follow, there’s a clutch of more conventionally melodic compositions, but the piano remains adorned with rattles, clicks and extraneous bumpings. This calls to mind the buzzing attachments of a Zimbabwean thumb piano, or the rattling metal discs of a Brazilian pandeiro drum. It’s a sympathetic undercurrent, as found in Indian classical music, or the wheezing drone of a bagpipe.
Hahn and Hauschka’s music has an organic mechanical motion, emerging out of a world that could have been created by Jules Verne or H.G. Wells. There’s a strutting roboticism, but all parts are made woody, wrinkled, leathery, walnut-crinkled and creaking like old bones. The so-called purity of the sweet-voiced piano and violin are continually subverted by carefully applied extraneous sounds. - Martin Longley

FROM the start of her career the violinist Hilary Hahn seems to have had little use for the beaten path. Admirers understandably intuited the makings of a new Heifetz or Oistrakh in the beautiful exactitude of her playing. But in her unusual pairings of canonical works on CD; her devotion to neglected pieces (Schoenberg’s concerto, Ives’s sonatas); and her openness to working in nonclassical settings for reasons other than a paycheck, Ms. Hahn has proved she is most interested in being Ms. Hahn.
With “Silfra,” a new album recorded with the German pianist and composer Volker Bertelmann, who works under the name Hauschka, Ms. Hahn offers one of her bolder tactics to date: making it up on the fly. Improvisation, once a staple of any performer’s arsenal, is no longer common practice for most classical musicians. Ms. Hahn, who had tiptoed toward spontaneity in her work with singer-songwriters like Tom Brosseau andJosh Ritter, takes the full plunge here, with gratifying results.
More closely associated with the adventurous margins of rock despite his clear affinities to Erik Satie and John Cage, Hauschka is an amenable guide, prodding Ms. Hahn’s imagination with a beguiling range of sounds produced by inserting Ping-Pong balls, magnetic resonators, tiny motors and other implements into the piano. Ms. Hahn responds admirably and with variety; she fidgets and scrapes when appropriate, but also produces achingly lovely, soaring lines, as in “North Atlantic.”
Mostly recorded during a 10-day stretch in Iceland, “Silfra” covers an impressive stylistic range, from slapstick tumble and crash (“Bounce Bounce”) to icy melancholy (“Clock Winder”). “Godot,” the album’s imposing centerpiece, underscores the significance of the duo’s third member, the producer Valgeir Sigurdsson, whose subtle alchemy results in a mesmerizing flux of density and perspective. - STEVE SMITH
Hilary Hahn and Hauschka's new album, Silfra, comes out May 22.
Proper concert violinists aren't supposed to do what Hilary Hahn does. They're not supposed totour with folk-rock singers like Josh Ritter. They're not supposed to play concerts behind someone's desk in the bone-dry acoustics of an office building. And they're certainly not supposed to make recordings with avant-garde prepared-pianists known for dumping ping-pong balls and other ephemera into the bowels of a piano.
Of course, Hahn has done just that. She recorded her new album Silfra (out May 22) in Iceland with the Düsseldorf-based composer and pianist Volker Bertelmann, who goes by the nameHauschka. The album's producer, Valgeir Sigurðsson, normally works with the likes of Björk andFeist.
All of that is brave enough for any classical violinist raised on a steady diet of Bach andTchaikovsky. But the big surprise here is that when Hahn and Hauschka entered the studio for their 10-day session, they hadn't prepared a note. Almost all of Silfra is the product of improvisation — a word that strikes fear in the hearts of most classical musicians, who are accustomed to relying on printed music.
That said, the duo didn't go in totally blind. By meeting regularly for improv sessions over a two-year span, they knew each other's playing well and had ideas on how to proceed. Still, there are no retakes or patches on the album. What we hear is how they played it for the first time.
Silfra unfolds like half-remembered scenes from dreams. Textures and images shift randomly, triggered by an odd assortment of sounds that can frighten or delight.
"Stillness" flits by quickly; its tones hang in the air like mist, made from Hahn's high-flying harmonics and sustained notes in the keyboard. "Godot," a 12-minute submersion into Hauschka's prepared piano, has the opposite feel. With persistent buzzes and bonks in the keyboard (he sets household items like the aluminum shells of tea lights on the piano strings) and whistling, icy scrapes from the fiddle, the piece ebbs, flows and builds slowly in a mesmerizing way.
Yet Hahn and Hauschka have more practical descriptions of the music. In "Bounce Bounce," a rubber ball — like a bass drum — gets bounced against the piano frame. "This was our way of releasing some of the pent-up focus of the first few days of recording," the duo writes in the CD's liner notes. Other songs were inspired by the ash of erupting volcanoes and heaving ocean waves.
The title, Silfra, comes from the serene Icelandic landscape near Reykjavik where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates almost touch within a lake of uncommonly clear and cold water. It's a prized hangout for scuba divers who can literally swim between the continents. But Hahn and Hauschka think of it more "like a seam binding two entities than a rift."
It's a handy metaphor for this fascinating new album — where two opposite and unlikely musicians meet in a special place to make music of the unknown.  -Tom Huizenga
Official homepage at
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Wikipedia article on Hilary Hahn
IMDb at page on Hilary Hahn
Discogs at Hahn
MusicBrainz entry on Hilary Hahn

Hilary Hahn commissions 27 new encore pieces

January 7, 2011 

What do most violinists play as encores? Very often we hear "oldies but goodies" or if there is a more modern piece, it's often in the category of "crossover." But I certainly haven't heard too many pieces that would be considered "contemporary classical" pieces played as encores.
Hilary Hahn. Photo courtesy artistHilary Hahn endeavors to change this by commissioning 27 composers to write short-form pieces for acoustic violin and piano, which she will tour over next two years then record. The project is called "In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores."
"My initial goal was to expand the encore genre to embrace works of different styles," she said of her project. "Because I was planning to play the commissioned pieces myself, it was important that the composers’ writing spoke to me in some way. I listened to a lot of contemporary classical music, for hours on end, often late into the night. I loved hearing things I had never heard before. I made nerve-wracking 'cold calls' to composers to ask them to participate in my project. I wasn’t sure what the reactions would be, but to my surprise, so many people were receptive that the project gained exhilarating momentum.
"It has been thrilling and an honor to get to know these composers as artists and to work with such different personalities and styles. Going into this project, I had no idea how much I would learn from it. Each composer brings his or her own musical language to the table. As a performer, the process of exploring these pieces is both challenging and exciting. The structure may be concise, but each work contains a wealth of expression.
"When composers put ideas down on paper, the aural world takes on a greater dimension. My hope is that these particular contributions will showcase the range of music being written today, while bringing enjoyment to listeners and performers alike."
The commissioned composers include:
  • Franghiz Ali-Zadeh
  • Lera Auerbach
  • Richard Barrett
  • Mason Bates
  • Tina Davidson
  • David Del Tredici
  • Avner Dorman
  • Søren Nils Eichberg
  • Christos Hatzis
  • Jennifer Higdon
  • James Newton Howard
  • Bun-Ching Lam
  • David Lang
  • Edgar Meyer
  • Paul Moravec
  • Nico Muhly
  • Michiru Oshima
  • Krysztof Penderecki
  • Einojuhani Rautavaara
  • Max Richter
  • Somei Satoh
  • Elliott Sharp
  • Valentin Silvestrov
  • Mark-Anthony Turnage
  • Gillian Whitehead
  • Du Yun
A press release says that "A final, 27th composer will be decided in a non-traditional fashion later this year."
Interesting! -

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