Name: Mareike Wiening
Occupation: Drummer, Improviser, Composer
Current Release: Mareike Wiening's formidable new album, Future Memories, is out via Greenleaf Music.
If you enjoyed this interview with Mareike Wiening and would like to stay informed about future tour dates and releases, visit her website. She is also in Instagram, Facebook, and twitter.
To keep reading, check out our previous Mareike Wiening interview.
I started playing the piano when I was 5 years old. I was always interested in playing the flute and by the age of 10 I finally started to take lessons. But after a couple years, I felt I missed something. I always danced a lot and loved music. When I was 15 years I finally discovered the drums.
With the drums everything made sense: I loved the concept of independence, I loved the rhythms and the physical aspect of playing the drums. It’s still a fascinating instrument and it’s very addictive. But when I started to write music, I realize that I need the piano. It wasn’t possible for me on the drums. I needed the melodies and chords.
So I was always interested in composing but never felt ready. As a drummer you don’t use harmony or music theory on a daily basis like other instruments. So it was very hard to link melodies or grooves to harmonies.
I started writing music when I did my master’s degree at NYU 2012-2014. I studied composition with Stefon Harris who was very influential on me and pushed me to start a band and record my music. Another important influence was Guillermo Klein.
Getting to know and study with Stefon Harris opened this door. He has a system of connecting emotions and physicals elements with music theory, composition and arrangement.
I think it’s very important to imitate and emulate your heroes at an early age. It’s a way of learning the tradition and phrasing. I think it’s very important to do that in order to find your own voice.
I believe that your own voice results from this process naturally. I always loved to transcribe solos and accompaniments and I still do it sometimes. Transcribed material is endless transformable and you can always make your own out of it. It helps to find your own voice.
Transcribing all my heroes definitely changed my way of making music. It formed me as a musicians and my way of playing the drums. It helped me finding my own phrasing, my own vocabulary and my sound. Besides that, knowing piano and flute also helped me understand other instrumentalist and playing the drums in a more musical way.
I was definitely a big challenge to become a bandleader, how to be a bandleader and what my music should sound like. I was scared, insecure and full of doubts. It was a learning process and it was often very difficult to be creative. But over time I found out what sound and music I want to express with my composition. I got more experiences and gained a lot of positive feedback.
It’s a path with unpredictable situations and a learning experience all the time. But this also makes it fun and it keeping me forward.
Working and finishing my debut album “Metropolis Paradise” was very special for me. I started working on it in 2017. Shortly before the recording session my pianist Glenn Zaleski broke his elbow and Dan Tepfer stepped in for him very last minute. It was a very stressful couple of days and I wasn’t sure if it’s going to work out. I had to trust my musicians 100%.
Besides that we were the very last band that recorded at Systems Two Recording Studios in Brooklyn, before they closed their doors forever. It was a very emotional moment, musicians came by all day to say bye to the owners. I believe these emotions also flowed into the music and my work.
Places, people, music and art inspire me. I am an open minded person and I am always willing to learn something new, which at the same time often inspires me. Creativity comes when something catches my attention; when I’m impressed, when I meet new people, hear new music, when I see new places – for example, a great concert the night before, a great lesson with a musician I look up to, a great conversation or a special location/place I visited. For me it’s very important to be in the “flow”. Distractions, like phones, background noises or appointments should be avoided. It’s easier to enter this state when I’m rested, have a free day or evening and feel inspired.
I love to jam with different people. It’s so fun to meet new musicians, you always learn something and it challenges me. It’s doesn’t matter if we only play jazz-standards or if we do a sight-reading session.
For me jamming is always very important in trying out new compositional ideas or even a whole new tune I’m not 100% sure about. It helps me to see my music more objectively.
I believe in music that heals. Music I really love gives me hope, strength and faith in any difficult situation. It keeps me moving forward. To me music can really express a feeling as a whole. Words are describing the feeling and talk about it. But the meaning and the emotion can only come through music.
I believe that music has a very strong value in our society. Hearing is directly connected to our feelings. If I’m in a bad mood, I know what music to turn on to make me feel better. Music is affecting us directly and therefore is very powerful in our society.
But most people don’t realize that music has a big influence on us and in our engagement and actions. They take it for granted. Kids grow up with streaming music all day for free. A lot of the time people don’t know what it takes to make music, to go to music school and to produce songs.
It’s very sad to see that music disappears more and more from curriculums. For me it’s very important to be out there, give concerts, teach young kids to learn where music is coming from, what it takes to learn an instrument and to respect music and the art of making it. Being an artist is also being an educator - so the value of music won’t disappear.