STM 141 - Jozef Van Wissem

Secret Thirteen Mix - Jozef Van Wissem
Photo by Bjarne Jonasson

An exclusive mix by Jozef Van Wissem merging post punk obscurities and minimalist classics of the 20th century.

An exclusive mix by Jozef Van Wissem merging post punk obscurities and minimalist classics of the 20th century.

Jozef Van Wissem is a Dutch lute player and composer. By carving blissful neoclassical soundscapes he balances between cinematographic pace, spiritual sensibilities and the purity of Renaissance. His sound is clean, brittle, affecting, extremely emotional and at the same time carrying a substantial intellectual weight with influences ranging from William Blake to Emanuel Swedenborg or Bas Jan Ader. Unlike some of the experimental music, which is drowned in chaotic noises, melancholy, even despair, Jozef’s compositions remind us of the forgotten world of harmony and light and sometimes even bring to mind the sublime poetics of Romanticism. Composer manages to capture the coherent coexistence of experimentalism and Classicism by first using lute as the solo instrument and constructing his soundscapes around it.

Jozef’s sound voyages stretch far beyond the musical world and are related to a very diverse range of media. He is a constant collaborator with famous film director Jim Jarmusch. Together they have released such critically acclaimed albums as "Concerning The Entrance Into Eternity" and "The Mystery Of Heaven”, heavily influenced by before-mentioned Swedenborg and Medieval Christian mysticist Mechtild of Magdeburg. Moreover, Jozef has also contributed soundtracks to Jim Jarmusch’s film “Only Lovers Left Alive” and won a prestigious Cannes Soundtrack Award. He also did a soundtrack for a famous Hans Holbein The Younger painting “The Amdassadors” as well as for a video game “The Sims Medieval”. This diverse range of activities only proves the universal nature of Jozef and how skillfully he manages to shift between different art forms and disciplines.

“Secret Thirteen Mix 153” is a carefully compiled colorful musical narrative. Each composition is very personal to Jozef and has a special story. Thus the selection not only showcases the sonic roots and influences, but also reveals composer’s personal musical highlights. This musical journey establishes itself with a classical tone by starting with Arvo Pärt’s composition “Spiegel Im Spiegel” performed by Nicola Benedetti before further delving into minimalist epics by Terry Riley and La Monte Young. The selection proceeds with more abrasive and rough textures by Anne Gillis and a horror-inflicting piece by Diamanda Galas. The second part showcases another side of the coin of Jozef’s picks. It presents a nice transition to more synth-laden and punk sound. It includes compositions by lost art/post punk innovators Nexda, minimalist cold wave project Desert Corbusier, in which Jozef played guitar, and Dutch melancholic post punk/new wave band Nasmak. The elegant sound of Tuxedomoon acts as a nice transition to the diverse and coherent pairing of two different periods represented by Fluxusist composer Henning Christiansen and French lutenist Ennemond Gaultier from the 17th century.

Jozef’s eclectic selection is a really extraordinary journey across different audio landscapes, which helped to form his unique artistic wholeness and also influenced Jozef as an artist. It is amazing to hear a classical lute piece from the 17th century next to post punk/wave obscurities or modern minimalist compositions. The selection leaps across various centuries, aesthetic approaches, sounds and artists. They sometimes even seem to contradict each other, but here Jozef presents an engaging and sometimes challenging narrative or even collage of different aesthetic attitudes. The selection also has a special cinematic feel and reminds the soundtrack for some lost abstract movies with rapidly changing imagery or just could be used for wandering across the white winter landscapes or urban surroundings.

01. Nicola Benedetti - Spiegel Im Spiegel [Deutsche Grammophon, 2009] composed by Arvo Pärt

I bought this piece in second hand earlier version LP. The work is so omnipresent now, that even the Pope abides.

02. Terry Riley - Anthem Of The Trinity [CBS, 1980]

Taken from his underrated “Shri Camel” record, which to me is his best album.

03. La Monte Young - B♭ Dorian Blues Saturday 19th November 1963 - 5th Day Of The Hammer [RRRip, 1992]

I met La Monte Young at a party of a friend in New York. He was wearing a cowboy hat and jeans. He spoke in this nasal tone, not unlike this piece.

04. Henning Christiansen - Op.50: Requiem Of Art (excerpt from "Celtic") (Fluxorum Organum II) [Edition Schellmann, 1973]

We went to the museum “Van Schone Kunsten” in Ghent and saw this video piece by Josef Beuys with music by Christiansen. It was the best multimedia experience in years.

05. Anne Gillis - Untitled (Side A, taken from “Monetachek”) [Rangehen, 1985]

I found this second hand LP on the Waterlooplein in Amsterdam. The music she is making holds as much tonal information as there is known about the artist. And that's how it should be.

06. Diamanda Galas - Panoptikon [Metalanguage, 1984]

This was never reissued. She was perfectly normal when I met her.

07. The Taverner Choir directed by Andrew Parrott (1490 - 1545) - Sanctus

Not to be confused with the late John Taverner, a self proclaimed descendant.

08. Nexda - Fivesixtyeight [Plurex Records, 1982]

I did a show with Nexda. It must have been one of my first shows ever.

09. Desert Corbusier - Can't Stay Too Long In This House [Self-released, 1981]

Here I am disguised as a guitarist under the alias of Jeanneret. The project was formed by the singer of punk band Mort Subite in which I played as well. I play a Fender Star Caster guitar, bought in Berlin. They would not let me to East Berlin at the time. The guard said “Na ja wie sehen sie den aus, sie schänden unser stadbildt".

10. Nasmak - I Hope I Am Gonna Rain Today [Plurex Records, 1982]

We went to see them in Groningen in a disco. Someone brought a tear gas spray so the title is sort of appropriate. It was a short show. Later in the nineties their bass player Theo Van Rock produced one of my records and was hanging out a lot in my bar and with Henry Rollins.

11. Desert Corbusier - The Room [Self-released, 1981]

I recycled this for the “Only Lovers Left Alive" soundtrack, albeit on lute. Under Tilda Swinton walking through Tangiers scene.

12. Tuxedomoon - Jinx [Charisma, 1981]

Honored to be on their label Crammed Discs after so many years. Can't remember seeing them play.

13. Henning Christiansen - Op.50: Requiem Of Art (excerpt from "Celtic") (Fluxorum Organum II) [Edition Schellmann, 1973]

14. Ennemond Gaultier (1575-1651) - La Cascade: Chaconne, in F Major | Miguel Yisrael, 11c Baroque Lute [Brilliant Classics, 2008]

Favorite solo baroque lute piece. I play this at home, but it gets emulated in my lute compositions live a lot.

About Author

Paulius Ilevicius is a Secret Thirteen journalist, editor and occasional DJ focusing on more dreamy and melancholic soundscapes. Born in post-industrial town of Pavevezys, currently he lives and works in Vilnius, Lithuania.

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