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RIVER SERENE BY TIMOTHY WENZEL
Keyboardist Timothy Wenzel -- whose last recording soared to #6 on the international Zone Music Reporter Top 100 monthly airplay chart -- explores four themes on his River Serene album: water, love, light and dreams. The album title reflects both his own new sense of calmness as well as a flowing river as an analogy for life.
“There are certain essential elements that make up our lives, and I decided to create music that puts a magnifying glass on some of them. Water is what makes our planet habitable and different than just about every other rock in the sky. One of the highlights of our humanity is the ability to love. Every day of our lives is divided into sunlight and darkness, and that serves as a symbol of the eternal conflict in our soul. Dreaming is universal and serves as way to explore our inner-psyche,” says Wenzel.
“A river is often used as a metaphor for the passage of time, always moving forward, never staying in the same place. The comparison continues since life sometimes has slow-moving parts and other times you ride the rapids. We don’t know what will be around the next bend or where the journey will end, so it is important to enjoy it along the way,” he says.
“I particularly like the imagery of a serene river because I like to enter a place of stillness with few distractions when I work on my music. After many years working as a scientist in a corporate setting, I recently changed jobs to make music my fulltime career. It is incredibly refreshing to be able to create music whenever I want rather than having to rush to squeeze in the time to do it at night or on weekends. Serenity helps my creativity.”
Wenzel, who has played piano all his life, primarily makes his recordings with a synthesizer (including a sequencer and computer), and his albums feature a wide array of instrumental sounds including piano, violin, cello, flute, harp, guitars, drums and percussion. His music has great appeal in the new age genre, especially because of the haunting melodies and dreamy arrangements that create a sense of peacefulness and relaxation.
He made a name for himself in music with his first two albums -- Mountains Take Wing and A Coalescence of Dreams. There is a visual element within Wenzel’s music which is often inspired by dreams, films, stories and nature scenery. In addition, he often creates or seeks out for each tune an appropriate piece of artwork which he makes available for viewing on his website. More information on Timothy Wenzel is available at his website (timothywenzel dot com). All three of his CDs and digital download tracks from those recordings are available at online sales sites such as CDbaby, Amazon, iTunes, eMusic, Rhapsody and many others.
“On River Serene, I purposely selected specific instrumentation and created arrangements to form music that I feel resembles each song’s theme so that the music imparts the meaning through the sounds. The most obvious examples are when the music sounds like the rain or a train, but even in the other tunes I did it more subtly. I try to capture the feelings of where the music came from or what originally inspired it.”
The dozen tunes on the River Serene album are divided into four thematic trilogies -- water, love, light and dreams. The first trilogy -- “Rain Coming Down,” “River Serene,” “Before the Rain” -- encapsulates the essential movement of water on our planet (rain runs into rivers which flow to the sea, and moisture evaporates back into the clouds for another cleansing, life-giving cycle). Between humans, love is an essential emotion -- “First Dance” (“enraptured by the first blush of love, the couple is lost in the swirling dance as they discover each other”), “A Midnight Rose” (“the time of quiet intimacy combined with the symbol of love brings infinite joy in the darkness of night”) and “Such a Long Time” (“inspired by Ophelia and Hamlet”). On the next trio of tunes, Wenzel explores how light and darkness can symbolize our moods and feelings: “Winter’s Light” (“the darkness of winter tears at the soul and we need the comfort of light”), “A Twilight Pause” (“it is a rare and magical experience when time stands still, and there is sublime serenity with no sounds, and that stillness brings on introspection”), and “The Night Train” (“there is something special about traveling on a train at night with the clacking of the tracks, the rhythm of the engine and the lonely whine of the whistle”).
The final three compositions explore dreaming -- “The Bridge to Our Dreams” (“as we drift into sleep and head for our dreams, we pass a magical place, a bridge where our dreamstate guide awaits”), “Passage” (“from the known into the unknown, the first step requires courage as you move into the other side”), and “The Child” (“on some level we are all children and a lullaby is often a useful tool leading us to dreamland”). “I get most of my musical inspiration just as I am falling asleep,” Wenzel says. “A lot of my melodic ideas come during my dream state when I am accessing a totally different part of my mind. I often get up, go into my home studio and quickly record a little piece to capture that thought. Then later I see where it goes.” The album was mastered by Grammy Award-winning engineer Corin Nelsen, who has mixed and mastered many top-name new age CDs.
Wenzel spent his childhood in South Haven, Michigan, where he was born and raised. As a boy he divided his time between being outdoors enjoying nature, but also inside playing the piano. “There was always a piano in our house. It was built by my grandfather who worked in a piano factory.” Tim’s mother played piano and he started plunking on the keys when he was three (“she encouraged me”). Two years later his mother sent him to a piano teacher. “I remember I did a recital when I was six,” Timothy says, “and the unusual thing was that they let me do an original piece that I came up with. I was deeply into classical music and I took lessons until about the time I got to junior high. I continued to play music on my own, but I started being influenced by rock’n’roll and what I heard on the radio. My entire life I have not been able to walk by a piano and not sit down.”
Initially Wenzel enjoyed Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Jethro Tull and The Moody Blues, and later U2. As he got older he began to appreciate new age music (“George Winston and the whole rosters of the Windham Hill and Narada labels”). His next journey was female singers that incorporated some Celtic sounds -- Loreena McKennitt, Clannad, Enya and Sara McLachlan. In recent years Wenzel also has begun working with female singers from around the world (he contributes the music and often the lyrics too).
In addition to music, the other steady theme in Wenzel’s life has always been science. He earned a BS degree in Chemistry at the University of Missouri, then his Masters and PhD in Physical Organic Chemistry at Cornell University. He then served as a post-doctoral researcher in organometallic chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley. This led to a career in research science, first with Union Carbide in West Virginia, and then with Dow Chemical back in Michigan where he still lives.
“I primarily worked in making polymers using catalysts -- discrete molecules with a metal atom that does most of the work. Polymers are a chemical compound of repeating structural units. My work was primarily in polyethylene using a new generation of catalysts to make different plastics. The culmination and highlight of my career was when they let me run with a far-out idea I had, and I headed a team that found a way to make two catalysts talk to each other. First one would weave a strand and hand it off, and then the other would weave one, and they created building blocks together. It is a powerful technique to make new types of polymers. It was a major discovery, a home run. Over the years I was issued about 50 U.S. patents.”
Wenzel sees a correlation between his two careers. “Scientific exploration is full of creativity and is very much like writing a song. In both cases you start with an idea and then explore the possibilities of where it can lead. Part of the experience is based on education, training and knowledge, but the other part is intuition, experimentation and a touch of magical alchemy that makes things work out.”
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