INSTRUMENTALIST TIMOTHY WENZEL MUSICALLY PONDERS QUESTIONS ABOUT OUR UNIVERSE DISTANT HORSEMAN
Traditional New Age Music elements into coalescence
Keyboardist Timothy Wenzel explains that there are numerous meanings behind the title of his second album, A Coalescence of Dreams.
First he asks, “Do we really dream alone or do our dreams intersect?” Then he points out that we can attain our greatest successes when our various goals and aspirations come together in a symbiotic way. Wenzel, also a longtime research scientist, explains that he realized his dreams of creating new substances by introducing the right catalysts on the molecular-level. “And in music, dreaming plays an integral part in the creation, and the entire process is bringing together notes and sounds into an arrangement,” he says.
“A Coalescence of Dreams is not only the title and theme of this album, but it also represents the way I live my life and the way I see life unfolding,” states Wenzel. “It’s about becoming aware of our nighttime dreams and using that knowledge. It’s about day-dreaming, brain-storming, setting goals and making your dreams come true. It’s about realizing that many aspects of our lives intersect, and also cross-connect with other lives.”
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 (plus occasional musical guests).
His music, which has subtle hints of Celtic and world-fusion, fits into the new age genre, especially because of the haunting melodies and dreamy arrangements that create a sense of peacefulness and relaxation. There also is a visual element in the music which is often inspired by dreams, films, stories and nature scenery. In addition, on his website Wenzel has attached an appropriate piece of artwork to each tune on the new album.
More information on Timothy Wenzel is available at his website (timothywenzel dot com). His two CDs -- A Coalescence of Dreams and the earlier Mountains Take Wing -- and digital download tracks from those recordings are available at online sales sites such as CDbaby, Amazon, iTunes, eMusic, Rhapsody and many others.
“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. I play it back to see if it moves me, and if there is a spark, I get involved and push it further in new directions.”
Sometimes Wenzel’s music is inspired by places -- a scenic drive in Hawaii (“Road to Hana”), a Michigan forest (“A Walk in the Summer Woods”), or hiking in the wilds of Germany (“Mountain Rain”). Other times it is the history of a place that causes Wenzel to create music. “Ice Wind,” which features guitarist Michael Rud from Denmark and drummer Lenny Lavash from Nevada, is a sequel to the tune “Birka” from Wenzel’s previous album. Both tunes are about a Swedish island where a major city existed in ancient times but disappeared in the 8th Century.
“Desert Sky” is what Wenzel calls “an alternative soundtrack to the film ‘The Sheltering Sky’ directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and an adaptation of the novel by Paul Bowles set in North Africa.” With “The River Niger,” Wenzel says, “I tried to make the music take the listener through the fascinating history of this African river from the Guinea Highlands to the Sahara to Timbuktu.” “Follow the River” captures the tale and trail of Mary Ingles who was kidnapped by Shawnee Indians in the Eastern United States in 1755 and transported a thousand miles, but escaped and made her way home with no supplies.
Other compositions are more contemplative and mystical. “Apparition” is about a comet that could be seen from earth a few years ago, and how “it appeared as a ghostly, spiritual vision.” Wenzel states that “Miles From Nowhere” is “about that feeling of being in the middle of no particular place, so far away from everything that nothing matters.” “Oasis of Souls” features Middle Eastern sounds and a spiritual theme (“When you are crossing a desert in life or in a dream, your soul needs a resting place, a sanctuary”). “We Walk Together” is Wenzel’s tribute to his deceased younger brother.
Wenzel was born and raised in South Haven, Michigan, where he spent a lot of time outdoors enjoying nature. “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. In grad school my biggest purchase was a parlor grand piano.”
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 followed this 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 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.”
Wenzel sees a correlation, or coalescence, of his two careers. “Science is very much an art full of creativity. Exploring a scientific concept 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 magic that makes things work out.”
Wenzel first recorded some original material using primitive recording equipment when he was in grad school. “I remember listening back to an improvisational piece I did and realizing the importance of capturing inspirational musical moments. As I matured I got more and more serious about my music. I bought an electronic keyboard and a four-track recorder in 1990 and started seriously writing original material. Over the years I got more sophisticated keyboards and recording equipment. About three years ago I began creating material for my first album, Mountains Take Wing,” he says.
“Music, like science, needs a little alchemy to help in the creation process,” says Wenzel. “I really enjoy it when two different chemicals or sounds or ideas or people’s paths intersect and something new comes into being. When my music is heard and affects someone else’s life, that is another coalescence, another dream coming to fruition.”
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