Track: Roedelius & Story show us the beauty of four hands working in empathy on the nuanced piano duet, ‘Ba’

Tim Story, left, and Hans-Joachim Roedelius, photographed by Emily Ramharter

PEOPLE can often bandy about terms such as legendary and scion with a carefree laziness; but, when it comes to German electronic and ambient music pioneer Hans-Joachim Roedelius, now into his eighth decade with us, those epithets are both wholly apt and richly deserved.

And with something around the 90-album mark in his catalogue since he debuted in 1978 with Durch Die Wüste, he’s entered into a two-way piano conversation with American composer and friend of 40 years Tim Story; named for the physicality they brought to bear in the realising of this music, it’s called 4 Hands and it’s out on Erased Tapes in January.

On 4 Hands the pair explore an intimate and surreal musical conversation full of the beauty that comes from so many years in the construction and appreciation of music, and in sharing love for an instrument from overlapping directions.

Having unveiled the gorgeous and conversational “Spirit Clock” a month back, they’re just dropped another little masterpiece of two minds and the four hands working in understanding and empathy, by turns pausing and by turns fluid, entitled simply “Ba”. Indulge in that below.

The title, that simple, single syllable? It’s the Japanese word for ‘a place’; in both languages a simple term freighted with so much complexity and possibility – and ambiguity. 

“Hans and I have been collaborating for several decades on many projects,” says Tim, “but this one may be the most empathetic and expressive of them all.

“Most exciting about 4 Hands is the embrace of a natural phrasing, keeping these pieces disarmingly human and open.”

The album was recorded sequentially but on one and the same grand piano. The process began when Roedelius laid down a few études off the cuff in May 2019 while visiting Tim Stateside; he then learnt the intricacy of those pieces in order to both extend and compliment over the following months. Its intuitive, masterful, fluid, delicate.

Together we shaped the basic compositions, sometimes carefully preparing the piano with various materials (including my own hands), and Achim’s performances were committed to tape. I continued to compose and refine my parts in the following months,” Tim continues.

“Because it was all recorded on the same piano, the result has a very appealing consistency of sound, ​​and hopefully blurs our individual contributions into a single integrated voice.”

4 Hands is not just a new album – [it’s] the logical continuation of the long-standing friendship between two composers,” details Roedelius.

“It’s our tribute to awareness and listening, coaxing a new sound language from the endless possibilities of a single piano played by our four hands.

“For me, these pieces express a different kind of beauty, they evoke more than the sum of their parts, they are a wordless dialogue, a bridge across the great water that separates our cultures from one another.”

Roedelius & Story’s 4 Hands will be released by Erased Tapes digitally, on CD and on vinyl on January 28th and can be pre-ordered here.

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