Many listeners of a "New Age" music CD by Craig Karolus of St. Stephen will be amazed at how one man can make so many symphonic sounds with just an at-home synthesizer. The CD, entitled "Standing On Top," evokes a wide range of emotions through mysterious sounds that tend to be relaxing and meditative.
Those who listen to a CD entitled "Standing on Top" will likely be surprised the grand sweep of the symphonic-sounding music is all performed by one man - Craig Karolus of St. Stephen.
Karolus is virtually a one-man orchestra. He created his CD by ingeniously using a synthesizer keyboard to make sounds that include strings, piano, percussion and some guitar. The result of his long hours of hard work is a CD of mysterious moods, most of them soothing and meditative. Karolus describes his music as "New Age" - a kind of music intended to create moods of relaxation, contemplation and spirituality.
Karolus's music has the power to summon up not just moods but images in listeners. In some cases, the images are birds singing or the gushing water of a lively brook, evoked by sound effects from nature. But in other cases, Karolus's mysterious chords and notes summon up more ethereal images and moods - the sun rising and sinking, bright mornings, dusky evenings and the grandeur of nature.
One of the selections, called "The Creator," has an eerie opening with almost ominous deep-barrel chords that give way to a crystalline shimmering of arpeggios. At that point, the song evokes silk curtains wafting slightly in a gentle breeze. And then a distinct beat begins and becomes more pronounced. Soon, the listener can envision banks of clouds, rays of light and finally, in a long drawn-out mysterious chord, the coming of peaceful night. "The Creator," in fact, would be the perfect musical soundtrack for a movie evocation of the Genesis creation, which is the opening of the Bible.
Karolus's CD covers a gamut of emotions: sadness, deep longing, serenity, quiet joy, meditative peacefulness and even - in one selection - fear. "Fear Inside (The Haunting)" begins with the sound of a creaky door, followed by echoing-street footsteps. Then a heartbeat can be heard, a squelched scream that gives way to extended sonic bass rumblings as if evoking a dark, foggy street. Then there is a muffled roar as if distant thunder, the howl of a wind (a ghost?) and finally a driving, insistent melody begins until the end of the song. The effects of "Fear Inside" can make a listener's skin crawl. It is like mood music for a spine-tingling story by Edgar Allen Poe or a movie about Jack the Ripper in old London's damp, foggy, narrow streets.
Born in Long Prairie, Karolus grew up loving rock 'n' roll but eventually turned on to many other kinds of music, including jazz and New Age. He and his wife, Char, live in St. Stephen. They have one son, 19-year-old Tommy, who also likes to play guitar. Karolus is employed at Nahan Printing in St. Cloud.
For 15 years, Karolus toyed with the idea of making his own CD in his own home. About six months ago, he decided it was going to be "now or never." It was a painstaking process. He usually started with a melody in his mind, then he would layer and build upon that melody with chords, sound effects and a variety of instrumental nuances. He would then mix all those sounds in a computer. For one song, Karolus recorded 32 separate tracks just of sound effects.
When the work was finally done, Karolus dedicated the CD to his Long Prairie High School music teacher, Ray Gold, now retired.
"He was a huge influence on me," Karolus said. "I was a member of the high school's Marching M'Bassadors marching band. Ray Gold taught me a lot."
Karolus's goal is to market his CD and maybe make music full-time someday. So far, he just has a few self-produced CDs available, although anyone can download "Standing on Top" by going to cdbaby.com.