If your passion for soothing/relaxing yet sonically innovative new age music extends back to the late 80s and early 90s, you’ll better understand why the release of Bernward Koch’s new album Becoming is cause for celebration. Now entering his fourth decade of recording, the German born composer/keyboardist has been there helping ease our personal and collective stresses during all the dark, uncertain times that we have experienced since his debut Flowing and its foundational track “Ever Returning.”
Over the years, beyond chart and critical accolades, Koch has achieved some fascinating distinctions. Weber State University in Ogden UT recommended his music as anti-stress. Many airlines around the world have played his music to calm the nerves of passengers with a fear of flying. Koch released Becoming, his lush and dreamy, melodically beautiful 14th full length collection into a very different world than he could have imagined while recording it.
No matter the time it was composed or the original inspiration, Koch believes music can play a major role in our lives during a time like this – and maybe even serve as a tool to help us visualize its eventual dissipation. “I have never received so many letters as in the past few months about music as a positive effect in our global pandemic,” he says. “A fan quote from today: ‘With such a change in the world in the past few months, is your beautiful music equally more a welcome rest.’ You can feel the situation as a big dark cloud that hangs over everything and moves very, very slowly. Nevertheless, at some point, this cloud will continue to move and gradually dissolve. It is of course wonderful that our music helps people to deal with it better.”
Besides deep insight, a talent for inviting, soul-enveloping melodies and a keen ear for fusing acoustic piano with wafting atmospheres and complementary instrumental textures like flute, one of the key elements of the tranquility of Koch’s music is living in the countryside, in a gentle, peaceful, hilly landscape. This is where he composes from 40 to 50 new ideas for each project, which he narrows down significantly to create a set of thematically related pieces. As he gathered the 14 pieces to create the new album, the new melodies reminded him of two related concepts – maturity and new beginnings.
"The Bright Spring"
The wordless narrative he started painting in his mind led him to the title Becoming. The music’s evolving sense of renewal led him to think about spring returning every year. “That’s why the flowers on the cover fit so well, and like the music, give hope. This naturally opened the door to one of the most optimistic and illuminating pieces, “The Bright Spring,” whose circular notes reflect on seasons coming and going quickly but always lingering sweetly in the heart and mind.
Other tunes that tap into the imagery of the lovely spring day are “Lavender Fields,” whose softness with a touch of sparkle may inspire images of sunrise; the sweetly innocent Moments of Love,” whose slow building emotions and subtle touches of light mirror the blossoming of romance; and “Sparkling Eyes,” the engaging, natural wide-eyed human response to love and nature in bloom.
Though Becoming seems designed for a relaxing all-consuming 66-minute immersion rather than the modern day “pick a few tunes and put them on a playlist” aesthetic, the titles of Koch’s tunes are worth noting for the colorful and fanciful imagery they may put in our mind as we ease through the experience. Just as we’re falling in love with spring and the object of our affection, he offers a moment of solitude (“Alone on the Way”) so we can catch our breath and realize the full-on sense of magic that life can be. Then after a special day, night or moment, we can enter a “Mysterious Afterglow” and the moody “A Swan Dream,” where we may better open to the universal secrets being revealed to our hearts.
Later titles like “The Harvest,” “Floating Leaves” (perhaps the most rhythmic and pop-oriented tune) and “September Impressions” remind us that memories of that glorious spring will stay with us even as fall approaches and the cycle enters its next phase. These are all powerful and meaningful things to contemplate as we navigate our days through the pandemic. For those who don’t want to get that philosophical, the music also lends itself to just letting go of the fears and anxiety of our time and just listening to the still small voice within that reminds us that everything will somehow be all right.
Listen to Becoming here: https://open.spotify.com/album/2Aj9H7Nahq4IyaonorIAb9