So much New Age and electronic instrumental music relies heavily on atmosphere and not so much on sheer melodic romanticism. Favoring melodic content rather than daring atmospherics might not be true for every artist, but it is in the case of Bernward Koch. Bernward’s 2015 album on Real Music is called Remembering and you really get that feeling of neoclassical remembrances on his most recent CD. The thirteen track, 63 minute Remembering CD is kind of in the spirit of Bernward’s 2013 album on Real Music, Day of Life, but if anything Remembering is even more wistful and nostalgic. Speaking to mwe3.com about his 2015 CD masterpiece, Bernward adds, “I started composing directly after the Day of Life album in 2013. Yes, I always have some kind of déjà vu feeling in my music, but it’s not always the same. Remembering for example, the track "First Flowers" is a memory back in time to when I started playing piano at age fifteen. I was living in a small village in the countryside. It was sunny and quiet days indeed." Remembering it almost sounds like Bernward is pining for a younger and more innocent time in life. The melodies are clearly sentimental and nostalgic and, while cloaked in the mystery of New Age sonics, this is clearly an album made by a composer who isn’t ashamed to show his appreciation and craft when it comes to drafting a melody that will last through time. It’s interesting to note that while Bernward uses the state of the art in audio gear, the musical notes and content itself sounds relatively timeless in scope and origin. So, while it’s easy to get nostalgic or full of reverie for Remembering, it’s worth noting one of Bernward’s quotes: “Strength lies in calmness.” That sense of aural calmness and sonic strength is at the very core of Remembering. www.BernwardKoch.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
mwe3: It sounds like your new CD Remembering is a logical extension of your 2013 CD Day of Life. How would you say Remembering is a kind of musical evolution from the Day of Life CD and how does Remembering compare sound wise with your earlier albums?
Bernward Koch: Actually, Remembering is a completely new album, but it is the record after the Day of Life. This time I arranged, for example, more rhythmical tracks and new musical colors as in the song "Through the Universe", and I'm happy about that.
mwe3: When was the music for Remembering composed and recorded? It seems like you’re still focusing on a kind of scenic musical memory, putting sound and music into emotional form. You mentioned that Day of Life had an inner, déjà vu kind of feel in that a lot of music evoked childhood memories, so does Remembering still follow on that path and bring up happier times?
Bernward Koch: I started composing directly after the Day of Life album in 2013. Yes, I always have some kind of déjà vu feeling in my music, but it’s not always the same. In Remembering for example, the track "First Flowers" is a memory back in time to when I started playing piano at age 15. I was living in a small village in the countryside. It was sunny with quiet days indeed.
mwe3: You had mentioned for Day of Life you were very keen on the Yamaha keyboards and you were looking forward to using even newer gear from Yamaha. Were there any new instruments to create Remembering and being that you say you follow all the advances in gear, what interests you these days mostly about new equipment and recording technology?
Bernward Koch: On Remembering I mainly used the new Yamaha CP4 stage piano, along with the old Korg SG1D and a D50 Piano from Omnisphere. I have an old piano and a grand piano in my house. It’s very interesting that the digital pianos work better for me and my sound. I always need a very special reverb, Lexicon, TC of course, together with many VST plugins.
I work with Steinberg Cubase Pro 8 and some old synthesizers, Yamaha DX7, Roland Alpha Juno2, D50, Korg Trinity and many real instruments like Sonor drums and percussion. So it's important that it all fits to the music and the compositions to get the right mood. The plugins are getting better and better, but I prefer to mix them with real instruments to get more depth and heart.
mwe3: When you write music, do the melodic ideas come first or do you have the idea for the arrangement or some kind of emotion or feeling first? How hard is it to come up with original melodic ideas?
Bernward Koch: I almost always have a melody in my head, mostly without an instrument, together with the harmonies that come automatically. I don't know why, but normally it comes easily to me. It has to do with emotions, yes, but I don't have a formula! After collecting the tunes, it's important to filter out only the very best compositions for an album, and only then the real work starts with the arrangements, recordings, etc.
mwe3: There’s so many memorable melodies on Remembering. On the track “Carefree Sunday” it sounds like you’re channeling a kind of Bach feeling, and I think Procol Harum also had that same kind of effect on “Whiter Shade of Pale.” How important were the great classical composers on your music?
Bernward Koch: Thank you! Well, I love music from JS Bach, Teleman, and also there are many tracks in rock music history like "A Whiter Shade of Pale", the Procol Harum song, which is influenced by Bach. Besides, my wife is a classically trained flutist and she plays mostly baroque music and so I hear and know that sound.
mwe3: It’s amazing you perform on the Remembering CD with your family. Tell us about working with your family members and what they play on Remembering. How long have you been recording with your family and how does that inspire your music?
Bernward Koch: I have worked with my wife Christiane (flute) and my brother Christoph (percussion, guitar) since my first record, Flowing, was recorded in 1989 in Hamburg. Although the phrasing of my music is rather unusual, from the beginning, it was very suitable, especially for the sound of the flute during important melodies. So that's a little coincidental, too.
mwe3: “Through the Universe” is very stately. It has a kind of cosmic effect. You did mention the Pink Floyd influence in your music. It’s nice to bring some of the rock influences out while keeping it cosmic and unique, too. Just on that note, I found my favorite Pink Floyd music was their instrumentals like Atom Heart Mother, so in my opinion your music carries on that spirit in a new century and with a new dimension.
Bernward Koch: Well, the music of Pink Floyd is a big influence for me, and there are a lot of really great albums from that band. Today it's easy for me to analyze and transcribe theirs, and other music, but you can always find new surprises like with the Beatles. I very much like it when the music floats and breathes, and that is a big element of Pink Floyd, too, especially the earlier records of the 1970s when that band was a real band. Anyway, I need that floating feeling for my own music, too. I don't know why, but it helps me, so my music is true and I think the audience feels that.
mwe3: The lead off track on Remembering is the title track. It’s very lush and very original sounding. Tell us something about the “Remembering” track and how does it set the tone for the album? How important are first tracks in setting the tone of your albums?
Bernward Koch: The first track "Remembering" is for me, certainly the best track to step into the whole album. It's a combination of a melancholic and emotional piano with a very strong and hopeful melody. I overdubbed that with my concert guitar to amplify it. So that track works as a "single,” too, but makes a good intro to the next tracks. And the main thing again is telling a story.
mwe3: One of my favorite tracks on Remembering is called “The Sunlit Hill” which is just great. What approach did you take on “The Sunlit Hill” and what kind of feel you were going for? The chorus melody is quite catchy and the track is very uplifting.
Bernward Koch: Thank you very much! "The Sunlit Hill" is actually a real song, without words, but imagine that track with lyrics and you will have a country-like song! The message is simple: “Come with me to the sunlit hill, stare into the distance, take a deep breath and feel free, powerful and good”… It’s one of several possibilities, as an instrumental track.
mwe3: Another great song on Remembering is entitled “Threads of Mystery.” I was going to say there’s a little kind of John Lennon pop influence in the haunting descending melodic lines. What brought on “Threads of Mystery?”
Bernward Koch: I don't know exactly… there are probably various influences. To me it sounds like an old folk song or a film score theme, and in the middle I have a mind to fly away into a mysterious land. The strong melody is provided by a Wurlitzer NE4 piano to support the mood.
mwe3: How has social media and the internet overall, impacted your music? Do you think it’s a help or is so much free music hurting sales of indie artists? I almost remember the days when going to the record store was a big deal!
Bernward Koch: Yes indeed! It's a two-edged sword and it's very hard to survive in these times, especially for an independent artist. Last fall Pink Floyd released "Endless River" and I was in a record shop on the street to buy a CD and at the same time I saw many fans, most 60 years and older, buying the CD, LP vinyl, DVD package and so on and they all smiled like school boys buying their first record! Great what music can do!
mwe3: What are you currently listening to these days and have you been impressed with any new instrumental or pop artists lately?
Bernward Koch: Among others classical, rock, jazz… I hear songs in the EDM genre, sometimes it’s very interesting what DJs are doing. I have my preferences but I'm basically open to many styles like film scores. I think in terms of quality.
mwe3: What else is new and interesting in your life? I guess you must be well into writing music for your next album already. Do you have any ideas on what you’d like to do next musically including fresh musical directions and possible live concerts?
Bernward Koch: Yes, I'm working on my next record already, whenever it will be released, but a good tune is a good tune, and timeless. I have schemes indeed but first we have to promote the new album Remembering. For example we just released a new video for the track "Floating Feather,” filmed on a sunlit hill near my home. And I believe we will produce another video for another track on Remembering.