Entertainment Magazine: Music: Uwe Gronau

Top German Keyboardist Uwe Gronau creates instrumental masterwork

Uwe Gronau, a top German musician and composer, decided to create the music on his new instrumental Midsummer album based on ideas presented by one of the world’s greatest philosophers, Ludwig Wittgenstein, who studied the relationship between reality and thought.

“What he showed me,” explains Gronau, “is that when language gets to a border and can go no further, music can give you a new perspective.”

Gronau was influenced and inspired by Tractatus, the groundbreaking work Wittgenstein published in 1921 in which he attempted to put an end to philosophical discussion with “the theory of what can be expressed by language and what can be only shown.” 

But Wittgenstein, an Austrian, also had a love of music which he said “makes an impression on me that is connected to...the whole field of our language games.”  He added that a fresh musical theme becomes “a new part of our language.”

Uwe Gronau (pronounced you-we grow-now) says his Midsummer recording is “an instrumental journey through a speechless world” and a “near nature experience because nature is a shared reality.”

The album appropriately balances compositions about nature (“Magic Forest,” “Into Clouds,” “Evening Sky,” “Rivers Bound to Sea,” “Big Sky Horizon” and “Heaven of Falling Stars”) with philosophical tunes (“Thought,” “It Happens,” “You Know” and “Thinking”).  Other pieces allude to people (“Secret Meeting,” “Dreamt of You,” “The Messenger,” “Roxy” and “Brave Heart”) or to the seasons (“Midsummer,” “Garden of March,” “Steps in the Snow,” “By The Fireside” and “Snowy Wood”).

Midsummer is a 2-CD set containing 35 tunes (all instrumentals except for one sung in English and one containing a spoken German poem).  The music, which ranges from mellow-beats to meditative, will be embraced by new age music lovers, but his blend of acoustic and electronic sounds also contains elements of jazz, pop, prog-rock, techno, trance, chill, ambient and space music. 

The CD is available worldwide online from CDbaby.com and Midsummer from Amazon.com, and from various digital download locations such as iTunes.  For more information about Gronau, you can visit his English-language website at myspace.com/uwegronaumusic or his German-language website at uwe-gronau.de.

Gronau plays most of the instruments on the new recording: primarily piano and keyboard-synthesizer, but also occasional organ, bass and acoustic guitar.  He shares the drum-programming duties with his co-producer Clemens Paskert.  Two special guests make appearances playing electric guitar -- Martin Brom on “Magic Forest” and “Left Hand,” and Wolfgang Demming on “Gliding Flight.”

The first CD in the package contains mostly ensemble performances with three electric guitar tunes and numerous tracks featuring drums and catchy rhythms (although one solo piano piece appears halfway through).

The second CD is quieter and more reflective with numerous solo piano tunes and others featuring piano with a light synthesizer backing (although a few tunes have some drumming).  In addition to the melodic and upbeat compositions, both CDs also contain some dreamy, synthesizer space music (including “Watching the Sound” and “Passage”).

“Where language stops, music starts,” Gronau states.  “Music is the only possibility for me to touch areas which cannot be described with words.  I can express myself with a musical language.  Creating music is like a meditation to find a way into a different world where you are alone.  For every musical poem conceived, you must dive deep into yourself.”

Gronau has numerous previous CDs (primarily available in Europe).  Some, like Midsummer, are primarily instrumental music (Seven Paintings, Sonnentempel, Nightwalker and Intuition).  Others feature Uwe singing on many selections -- Children, The Beauty of the Sea, Someday, Ciel, Time is a Sound and Full Moon Forest.  Gronau made a special guest appearance with the group Luna Blanca on their most recent album (Provence) which went Top 10 on the international Zone Music Reporter radio airplay chart, and he has performed with them in concert on occasion.

In addition, Uwe has played on recordings by other artists including Angelique Damschen and Severine Okomo.  Gronau also is an author who wrote the acclaimed novel Senior Morales, a fantasy journey through Europe searching for a special Spanish musical instrument.  The printed novel led to an audio-book version with music and spoken passages by Gronau (additional speaking by Karin Schweitzer), and also a concert featuring the material (on Midsummer the tunes “Secret Meeting 1” and “Secret Meeting 2” were created to capture scenes in the book).

Born and raised in the Rhineland in northwest Germany, Uwe grew up in Dusseldorf and Bocholt (where he currently resides) which is only a couple of miles from the Dutch border.  “In the ‘70s and ‘80s the Netherlands were more involved in the evolution of jazz, pop, rock and soul music than Germany, so I profited from this situation and was influenced by much great music.”

Uwe began playing piano at age six and grew up immersed in music as the son of a choir-leader, orchestra-conductor, music school-teacher and piano instructor.  “When I was a child I had to practice at midday when all my friends were playing football, shouting and having fun.  My father listened to my playing from the other room while he rested.  So I made a cassette-recording of my piano-playing and let it play through the hi-fi amplifier so I could go outside, but my father caught on when the batteries went dead.  That experience inspired the tune ‘Storm Lantern’ on Midsummer.”

In his early years Uwe studied classical music, but soon became passionate about jazz and rock artists such as Brian Auger, Keith Emerson, Patrick Moraz and Refugee, and Joe Zawinul and Weather Report.  As Gronau got older, his musical tastes expanded to include Supertramp, Jethro Tull, Gilbert & Sullivan, Keith Jarrett, Sting, Peter Gabriel and Dream Theater.

When Uwe was 14 he began to play in a series of bands and built a reputation in the area for his musicianship and professionalism.  One thing that always set Gronau apart from many other musicians is that from the beginning and continuing to today, Gronau has always played original material and has never covered compositions from others. 

Gronau’s band Sternberg recorded two albums, performed concerts frequently, won a regional music contest, was broadcast on Germany’s main radio channel (WDR), and also won a film music award (for the soundtrack of “Don’t Destroy the Rainbow Above Us”) at the International Santander Film Festival in Spain.  One member of the group, Michael Hoing, has continued to work with Uwe by contributing lyrics for various solo projects.  Gronau’s next group was the synth-pop trio Fabrique.

They performed the music for the German science-fiction TV-series “Orion Space Patrol,” made recordings and videos, appeared on TV shows, and wrote the song “Secret Land” which became a Top 10 global hit for the singer Sandra.

Gronau moved on to the funky rock band Point Neuf and recorded two albums.  Then he became a solo artist.  Uwe also has an interest in gospel music.  He conducted the gospel choir at the local college, and on his last album, Full Moon Forest, for the tune “The Mirror” he included background vocals by Alia Davis, Aida Brenden, Bishop Townsley and The Harlem Gospel Jubilee group (recorded in Brooklyn, New York).

In college, in addition to majoring in music, German and theater-science, Gronau studied the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein, a language analyst who included musical references in all of his writings, which is unusual for a philosopher.

For example, he stated “the musical theme is not just a mixture of tones,” “speech is to be compared with the playing of a piece of music” and “understanding a sentence is much more like what happens when we understand a tune.” 

Wittgenstein grew up in a musical home where regular guests included Brahms, Schumann, Mahler, Strauss and Pablo Casals.  Wittgenstein’s most famous phrase translates as “what we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.”  But even though he felt philosophical discussion should be limited to structured, logical language, he understood the need to discuss music in terms of personal observation and experience.

Gronau says take a listen to the music on Midsummer and do the same.

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