Take Five With Marc Brenken

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Marc BrenkenMeet Marc Brenken:

Marc Brenken (born June 17th, 1973) started to play piano at the age of eight and has constantly been developing his own musical language since his studies at the Folkwang Academy of music in Essen, Germany.

In 2006 his debut cd eight short stories (with his quartet featuring trumpeter Christian Kappe) was released. Marc composed the music for this album.

Now, in 2009, a new trio album, It Could Happen to You, is released, featuring Alex Morsey on double-bass and Marcus Rieck on drums.

Marc is playing continuously in clubs and jazz festivals in Germany and abroad. He also cooperated with the WDR and the Literaturkommission für Westfalen (jazz and poetry projects).

In addition to his studies at the Folkwang-Hochschule he has attended master classes with John Taylor, Fred Hersch, Kenny Werner, Marc Copland and Richie Beirach.



Teachers and/or influences? Early influences: Erroll Garner, Oscar Peterson, George Shearing, The Police, Pink Floyd, Supertramp.

Later: Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, John Taylor, Kenny Werner, Chick Corea, }}Fred Hersch}}, Brad Mehldau, Richie Beirach, Marc Copland, Art Tatum, Stefano Bollani, Igor Stravinsky, AC/DC.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... ...that was a process—although I started to play piano when I was eight, I wasn't 100% sure if I really wanted to be a musician from the beginning. I'm also interested in other things, especially nature and photography. My father wasn't happy with my decision to study music and always wanted to change my mind. Though he was the one who first introduced me to jazz records, he considered music only as a hobby, not as a profession for me. But in the last 10 years my wish to dedicate my life to making music became more and more urgent. I love to compose, to question alleged rules in music and to improvise. I'm happy to have some of the best musicians of the German jazz scene in my bands.

Your sound and approach to music: On the stage I try to listen as carefully as possible to what's happening in the band, to communicate with musical elements and to create a kind of flow. I play all my compositions by memory; I hate to depend on sheets.

My approach to composing: When I started to write music, I often wondered how great composers were able to create such amazing music that fascinated me more and more each time I listened to it. Fortunately I had the chance to ask some of my favourite musicians about exactly that thing, and it turned out that all of them used the same simple method—first they just let their ideas flow and collected them, without judging them. I believe every musician has these little ideas—melodic phrases, rhythms, sounds, a small harmonic cadenza etc.—they just occur in front of the "inner ear" from time to time, every day. It's only important to record these ideas somehow, be it by writing them down or recording them on an mp3 player, tape or whatever. In most cases these single ideas are probably too short for a whole new piece of music, but sooner or later you'll find another idea that matches perfectly with an old one.

After collecting the "raw material" the actual composing process can begin—trying to put together different ideas. Of course it is very useful now to be able to abstract musical elements—transpose a motif, play it in different tempos or measures, move it to another beat, play it with different expressions etc.

Often it is easier when you can try things out on an instrument, e. g. the piano. In my opinion it is very important to make decisions on instinct here—you have to feel the flow, especially when you're building up tension over a space of time. When you don't feel inspired anymore, it's probably time to stop and take a rest.

To develop a personal style in composing, I think it is also very important to study different kinds of music, analyse one's favourite compositions and learn to play them by heart. Sometimes I also fool around with instruments I cannot really play—that can be quite inspiring, for suddenly you've got a new point of view.

It's a kind of enquiring mind that lets me try out unusual things. Basically, that's all one has to know—it's the same thing as with anything else that's about creativity.

Maybe I should add that when I write new tunes, I'm often not happy with the result I hear at the first rehearsal or after recording the piece for the first time. That's normal! But when you make ten shots, chances are good that there are one or two really good ones. And sometimes you'll get the best feedback for the tunes you've considered rather uninteresting.


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