During the past five years, German keyboardist and composer Uwe Gronau has become a favorite musician on the new age music scene for his versatility, eclecticism, progressive melodies and production capabilities. All of his admirable attributes are on display within his new album, Paradise Painting, with the inspiration initially stemming from a dream.
By Ruthe Forbriger, The Creative Service Company
“I woke up one morning and I remembered having a dream in which I went to paradise and there I played on a piano I had never seen or heard before,” explains Gronau. “It looked a bit like the piano from the Beatles’ video for ‘Strawberry Fields.’ I remembered what the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who lived from 1772 to 1834, once said, ‘What if you slept? And what if, in your sleep, you dreamed? And what if, in your dream, you went to heaven and there plucked a strange and beautiful flower? And what if, when you awoke, you had the flower in your hand? Ah, what then?’
“I remembered the notes I played in my dream and I also had a picture in my mind. So I created a ‘sound-painting’ which I called ‘Paradise Painting’ and which became the first tune on this album. You can see the picture I had in my mind inside the album package, the ‘Flying Grand Pianos,’ painted by a friend of mine in the way I told him to paint it based on what I had seen in my dream.”
Gronau’s music is soft and gentle on one tune, and then packs the power and flamboyance of progressive rock on the next, and sometimes within the same piece. He utilizes all types of keyboards to create his “sound-painting” — piano, Hammond B-3 organ and synthesizers (notably the mini-moog voyager and virus keyboards) — with occasional special musical guests (saxophonist Matthias Keidel on one tune, guitarist Wolfgang Demming on two, and drummer Ansgar Uffink on another). Paradise Painting was produced by Gronau with his longtime musical associate Clemens Paskert.
Uwe Gronau (pronounced ooo-vuh grow-now) is a master of many musical styles with numerous extremely varied recordings. His musical enthusiasm and boundless creativity cannot be contained. His music ranges from new age to space, from jazzy to progressive-rock, from ambient or avant-garde to extremely melodic with pop sensibilities. He only performs and records original music that is known for its rich sense of dynamics.
Paradise Painting and his other most-recent albums are available worldwide online from CDbaby and Amazon, and from various digital download locations such as iTunes. For more about Gronau, you can visit his English-language website at uwegronau.com.
Gronau has numerous previous CDs (some primarily available in Europe). Several are mostly instrumental music — Midsummer, 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, Full Moon Forest and Time Rider. His latest albums — Midsummer, Time Rider, Visions, Flight 14, Thoughts of Tomorrow and Mystical Morning — have been marketed internationally and all have climbed into either the Top 5 or the Top 10 on the prestigious monthly international Top 100 Zone Music Reporter Chart and received airplay on hundreds of radio outlets worldwide.
On the title track of Paradise Painting, Gronau plays quietly within a spacey ambiance, but as the album progresses he explores a wide variety of musical themes and personal feelings. For example, on tunes such as “Prophecy, “ “Sister,” “Diving Into The Deep” and “Two Worlds,” he mixes in growling electric guitar and electronic keyboard soloing that is reminiscent of classic prog-rock. Regarding the tune “Prophecy,” he says, “Sometimes I like the Darkness, the Night, the Passion, and I don’t like reality at those times, and I turn away from everything that is normal.” About “Sister,” which starts with acoustic guitar and percussion sounds, Gronau explains that “this song is for my sister who died much too early at the age of 21. I tried musically to describe the different aspects of her personality, like pictures at an exhibition.” Similarly on “Two Worlds” he explains that “a soft and warm intro changes into a hard rock riff and back again throughout the composition” which featurs electronica, horns and progressive guitar.
Does a sound or a musical tone have a kind of smell?
“In the composition ‘Sounds Like a Smell’ my brain is working over the question: Does a sound or a musical tone have a kind of smell? An old lady I know listened to this piece and she said the music smelled like Spanish fish soup. ‘A Passion Play’ is a reminder to remember your most intensive feelings that you ever had and why they are so important. ‘Carpe Diem’ is about being happy and loving what you do. It is flowing and full of good vibrations. ‘Diving Into the Deep’ is to inspire people to commit themselves because it is a beautiful, romantic world. I wrote ‘New Day’ to try to capture my feelings when I stand on my balcony at six o’clock in the morning, watching the sun that rises behind the woods and fills my heart with joy and positive thoughts. The tune ‘Teguise’ is my tribute to a wonderful town on the Canary Island of Lanzarote. I wrote ‘She’s So…’ about my girlfriend because she is indescribable using words so I tried to do it musically. The ‘End of a Concert’ is a very special time for a musician, because after long planning, performing all the harmonies and feeling all the emotions, it is finally time for a cold glass of wine.”
Gronau was born and raised in the Rhineland in northwest Germany, and 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 than Germany, so I profited from this situation and heard 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.
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 ‘O 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 by others. In college, Gronau majored in music, German and theater-science.
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. 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 Pont Neuf and recorded an album with them before going solo.
Additionally Gronau has played on recordings by other artists including Luna Blanca and Angelique Damschen (also known as Aileen Rose). Gronau also is an author who wrote the acclaimed novel Senor Morales, a fantasy journey through Europe in search of a special Spanish musical instrument. The novel led to an audio-book version with music and speaking by Gronau. He also has published books of short stories — Der Schneemann von Wagenitz; Zucker, Zaster und Zement; and Avantgarde, Chopin und frische Blumen.
“There are special things in life that can only be described by music and art. If you try to open the secrets simply with words, it is impossible, and the secret will not exist anymore. Art is an absolute necessity for humans to live a good life on this planet.”
Check out Owe Gronau’s homepage, where you can sample and purchase the music.