Martin Kälberer makes things ring. Even sheet metal becomes a magical source of sound in his hands.
Anyone who attends one of Martin Kälberer’s concerts embarks upon a sensual journey into incredible worlds of sound. And they experience instruments never heard anywhere before. Kälberer, trained as a jazz pianist and congenial partner to songwriter Werner Schmidbauer and eloquent guitar virtuoso Willy Astor, is a magician in sound. His powerful hands, which could just as well handle a blacksmith’s hammer, given their shape and size, are his implements. Kälberer: “I have to feel the material and I hardly ever use drumsticks or any other aids.” With his love of improvisation, he’s always surprising his audience. Whether it’s the piano, the accordion, the mandolin, the double bass, the guitar, the slit drum, or his own voice — he invariably combines a diversity of sounds to create an unforgettable acoustic experience.
“Sometimes,” he explains, “I discover a new instrument in a music shop just before a performance. And then I use it right away on stage.” Even things made of sheet metal begin resonating in his hands. One example is Richard Waters’ exotic waterphone. This is an arrangement of brass rods on a hollow metal base which is filled with an exact amount of water. There’s also the “Hang” — an exotic, UFO-like body comprising two half-shells of deep-drawn sheet steel that are then gas-nitride finished.
Musical journey around the world
The “Hang” (the word for “hand” in the dialect around Bern, Switzerland) has a diameter of 53 cm and a height of 24 cm. Seven or eight “tone fields” are arranged on the top, in a circle around a center note, the “Ding.” On the other side, in the middle of the lower shell, there is the “Gu,” a round resonating opening the size of a hand, with the neck drawn inwards. How do you play the Hang? Martin Kälberer: “What you need is a sensitive application of energy through your hands, alternating among touching, tapping, energizing, gently striking, stroking and plucking the Hang’s surface.” This produces a wide variety of sounds which the inventors and sole fabricators Felix Rohner and Sabine Schärer compare with an “acoustic cathedral.”
Experimenting with sounds
In Martin Kälberer’s solo program the Hang plays a central role. “Its power inspires me to experiment with sounds, melodies and rhythms.” There is clear evidence of Kälberer’s love of Brazilian and African music. His playing is an invitation to the listeners to take a trip around the world of sounds. This can be experienced on his current CD, Between the Horizon.
Martin Kälberer has also undertaken commitments on political and social fronts. On his website he airs his views, and he comments on injustice and despotism. He always donates part of the revenue from his albums to humanitarian projects. At present the “Little drops” project is the beneficiary. Martin Kälberer: “This is a private initiative that helps children in need both very personally and very directly, by building schools and setting up play-grounds or solar-powered systems, for example — in my home region of Chiemgau as well as in India, Siberia, South Africa and Uruguay.”
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