Hauschka, a.k.a. Volker Bertelmann, is known for extensively using the “prepared piano” in his compositions. The idea of a “prepared piano” is enough to draw people to the music, just to hear what a piano with aluminum wrapped around the hammers would sound like, or how it is possible to orchestrate music with piano strings that are choked with bands of leather. Because of this immediate appeal, likened to a freak show or outsider art, many people dealing with a prepared piano might ride out an album based on that one gimmick, but this is not the case with Hauschka. Bertelmann sees that there is Room To Expand the usage of the prepared piano, devoting serious time it instead of picking up as a sort of musical hobby, a curiosity glanced over like a dilettante.
Ironically, “La Dilettante” is the first track on the album, a track that is compact and layered like an electronic composition, hardly belonging to its title. The next track, “Paddington” follows in same with the previous track, keeping somewhat popular electronic sensibilities to it, but synthetic sounds made by a computer are replaced with artificial sounds made by a man’s ingenuity. “Paddington” also takes a gliding step like an ice skate towards another direction on the album.
Much of the music on Room To Expand is not experimental, but something more like play. This play has its base in a grounded and simple rhythm that keeps the music moving in a constant direction, a game of tag, and from this basic premise other rules can be created or destroyed, freeze tag, TV tag, until the collective inventive spirit of the song creates new games in itself, maybe losing that first game of tag, maybe not, but the movement of the music reaches Calvinball proportions, creating as it sees fit, destroying, merging, and doing whatever seems to work.
As the game goes on, all of the loopholes and addendums that can be explored with the piano are mapped out like cities, but now many different routes lay open to Bertelmann to travel along for as long as he wishes, fueling his journey not with oxen, but though his own self sufficient artifice of the prepared piano and his want to travel.