Entering into the mystically melodic, soul transporting musical world of Michael Kollwitz via his exquisite new collection Serenity III: More Peaceful Music on the Chapman Stick, the feeling is one of a cool and calm euphoria. While the lush and compelling compositions he plays on the unique stringed instrument are designed for gentle reflection and meditation, these chill vibes are balanced by the extreme joy of discovery of a wonderful artist whose music I wish I had been introduced to much sooner.
My first instinct was to catch up on just how impactful Kollwitz has been since introducing the Stick into the new age world. His first Serenity project in 2017 reached #8 on the Zone Music Reporter and was nominated for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album of 2017 by One World Music Radio in the UK. It also gained placements on the spa channels of seven international airlines and received a Hollywood Music in Media Award nomination for “Mystic Vista.” Kollwitz’s follow up Serenity II reached #8 on the Billboard Top Ten New Age chart its second week and remained #10 on the ZMR charts for two months. Prior to that, Kollwitz – one of the first pioneers on the instrument created by guitarist and inventor Emmett Chapman – released 20 albums in a multitude of genres from jazz and rock to Americana and Hawaiian music.
As you open up to the gentle string graces of Serenity III, which begins with the hypnotic, meditative “Cloud Number Eleven” and promises a dreamy, atmospheric “Gift of Peace” and a soothing time of “Smooth Sailing” not long after, you might want to go down a few fascinating rabbit holes of knowledge before you let the full sweep of the 16 tracks wash over your weary mind, heart and bones as Kollwitz designed it to do. If you’ve never heard of his instrument, you owe it to yourself to read up on Chapman and “The Stick,” which combines elements of guitar, bass, keyboards and percussion into a single instrument that is played more like a piano than guitar. Learning of Kollwitz’s relationship with the inventor is equally fascinating.
The second point of research is the spiritual foundation of Michael’s life and music – the practice of Steps to Knowledge, a unique philosophical path created by author and teacher Marshall Vian Summers, whose book Steps to Knowledge: The Book of Inner Knowing delineates his revolutionary concepts. Kollwitz says, “If they are so inclined, I hope listeners will take the time to investigate Steps to Knowledge to find out if it helps to unburden their own lives and bring out their inner creativity as I has for me.”
If Summers’ work can inspire the kind of beautiful, relaxing, transformational music that we hear throughout Serenity III, it may just be the key to changing the world. His titles are simply tools for us to bring our own experiences into the immersive experience. We should clear our mind for God’s presence on “Sunday Morning” (a thoughtful reminder to actually do this every day!), engage in some deeper “Contemplation,” focus ourselves on taking a deep breath and “Winding Down” (which this song will help us do!) and free ourselves from burden via “Forgive and Forget.”
There are some inner journeys involved as well, including one to “Crystal Caverns” and a moment of drifting “On the Lake.” Yet Kollwitz also uses his stick to remind us that in our day to day life, we should never lose our joyful sense of “Playful Curiosity.”
Serenity III is just the latest peaceful, relaxing work of an artist of spiritual and emotional depth who you will quickly find yourself embracing – and even allowing yourself a healthy addiction to!