Listening to a piece by Hauschka can be deceiving: What sounds like an ensemble of musicians and instruments is just one man, performing at one piano. His real name is Volker Bertelmann, and he hails from Dusseldorf, Germany, where he works with his "prepared piano." He wrests disruptive sounds from the instrument's 88 keys by outfitting the strings or mallets with objects such as ping-pong balls, aluminum foil and leather. His new album is titled Foreign Landscapes, and he recently visited NPR's studios to demonstrate his craft.
Resting on the strings of NPR's grand piano are bottle caps, a plastic necklace, a bell and marbles — basically the makings of a dollar store. Each item on the piano produces a different variation on the traditional piano sound. Together, they're disarming and hypnotic.
"They create a whole carpet of sounds underneath the tones that the hammers create," Hauschka tells Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz. "What I like about it is that there is something going on without my control."