Since these are the rock and pop archives of Belgium, Wim Mertens is a bordercase
on whether or not to allow him in (just as it is the case on the other side with
the Flemish schlager-singers like Jimmy Frey, Will Tura ...). Fact is that minimal
music, although certainly a part of modern day classical music, has a lot of points
in common with rock & pop : Philip Glass, Michael Nyman, Steve Reich are in
the same case as Wim Mertens and they're also considered popmusicians, or at least
enjoy the modern day popularity of them. Their music pretends to be more than
just a "song", but so does the music of say Laurie Anderson, David Byrne,
Ry Cooder ...
Moreover, Wim Mertens has had a hit-record : his song "Close cover"
of 1983 was used as the tune for the nightly program on the national radio station
BRT. So it aired 3 to 4 times each night.
Soft Verdict is the name under which he started playing (at the age of 28).
It is not so much a band, rather a collection of musicians under the direction
of Mertens who performed with him, according to the necessities of the composition
He also was embraced by the public after his cooperation with film-director
Peter Greeneway in "The Belly of an Architect" in 1987.
Mertens aims at a large audience with his music : in an interview with Het
Nieuwsblad he said responding to the question "Your debut album was called
"For amusement only". Do you find your works have an entertainment value
?" : "I hope so. Entertainment is a bit of a common term, but it's
certainly my ambition to "maximize the audience". I want my music to
be as popular as can be".
If so, he certainly has got to try and get a better marketeer : in 1991, he
released 7 cd's at the same time. In 1994 he released 10 cd's at the same time.
The man : "I don't think about myself as being particularly productive.
Bach had to compose a new piece each week. At the time that was common practice.
But today, the record industry want one record per year, not more, not less. If
I release 7 cd's at the same time, I do that because I think it necessary. I don't
want to follow the rules and schemes of the record industry. Too much self esteem
? I don't think so. There is a lot of music inside my head, all the time. If I
were to take a paper and pencil, I could start writing music now, for an hour
at least. No problem".
So what's his music like ? Here's a try, taken out of the dissertation on Mertens'
work for the Jan Fabre theater play "de macht der teaterlijke dwaasheden"
(the power of theatrical madness) of 1984 by Prof. Dr. J.M.Broekman : "Contemporary
music seldom evokes philosophical reflections upon the Arts, yet the exquisiteness
of the music of Wim Mertens demands It.
Mertens' music has its roots in American Minimal Music, a tradition which holds
that composition can be achieved through the use of the fewest possible musical
devices. Despite belonging to this tradition, Mertens' music is distinguishable
from that of Reich and Glass, who are comparatively much more concerned with conceptual,
System and Process music.
These forms of musical conception may truly be described as objectified musical
forms. As such they form an autonomous normative system which governs not only
each individual composition but also the developmental trend of the composer.
So we find that unilinear musical composition was produced over the years. But
this is not to say that the multiplicity of musical compositions was simply an
indistinguishable whole. On the contrary, many a composition contained its own
distinctive features and defined meaning peculiar to itself. Precisely because
both compositional technique and musical form were subjected to a closed autonomous
normative system, repetition effectively became the dominant technique. It was
almost an art in itself. To the extent that the Minimalists virtually transformed
repetition into an art they managed magnificently to retain and promote their
activity. So it was with those who adopted the minimal principles but refused
to be governed by its rigid normative system. It is particularly in apt to suggest
without due regard for differentiation, as does John Gill, that Philip Glass is
the undisputed godfather of all variations in minimal music.
Gill's suggestion verges on the mythical when he declares that "Glass' influence
began to spread when he first toured Europe with his band after bumping into Bowie
and Eno after a Royal Academy of Music gig in London in 1971, meeting Tangerine
Dream and Kraftwerk in Germany, planting a seed that would inform Giorgio Moroder's
late 70's disco productions for Summer and others. These strands spread out, appearing
in a rather thin disguise as the synthpop wave hunched by the Human League and
crossing over into British and American disco production. Ironically, in the 1980's
Glass has been hailed as the godfather of a new wave of system music composers
- Michael Nyman, Lost Jockey, Regular Music, Soft Verdict and other little known
names appearing on labels like Factory and Belgium's Disques du Crépuscule. You
may not have heard them, but they're out there".
Yet at the very first performance the difference between the system music
of Glass and that of the others was already apparent. The repetition which influences
the music of Mertens and indeed functions as its dominant compositional principle
consists of a special dimension. The repetition occurs for two reasons. Firstly,
it is intended to carve out a space for listening in the flowing stream of music
and emotion and secondly, It is designed to enlist the feeling of pleasure. The
challenge with which Mertens confronts us is that the technique of repetition
remains dominant in his music but acquires a different meaning.
One may even suggest that in this respect Mertens' music is conceived traditionally
and composed accordingly, to such a degree that it is impossible to experience
it without the Minimalist tradition looming large. Often the function of the top-line
is to act as a signifier indicative of the meaning of the music. In ascertaining
the meaning of the music the listener is not involved in the process of representation
in the classical sense of the word. On the contrary, it is analysis through which
meaning comes to fore. Unlike Fabre, Mertens does not presuppose a fixed experience
on the part of either the listener in musical production or the spectator in theatrical
performance. As is wellknown, such a presupposition was deemed to be necessary
for purposes of cathartic effect."
And if you don't dig that, just listen to a few excerpts on the right.
Buy CD's of this artist
Wim Mertens :
Albums (all on Les Disques du Crépuscule):
- At Home, Not At Home (1982)
- For Amusement Only (1982)
- Vergessen (1982)
- Close Cover (1983)
- Struggle For Pleasure (1983)
- A Visiting Card (1984)
- Maximizing The Audience (1985)
- Hirose (1985)
- Instrumental Songs (1986)
- A Man Of No Fortune, And With A Name To Come (1986)
- Educes Me (1987)
- The Belly Of An Architect (1987)
- After Virtue (1988)
- Motives For Writing (1989)
- No Testament (1990)
- Sources Of Sleeplessness (1991)
- Vita Brevis (1991)
- Alle Dinghe (1991)
- Stratégie De La Rupture (1991)
- Hufhuf (1991)
- Houfnice (1992)
- Shot And Echo (1993)
- A Sense Of Place (1993)
- Epic That Never Was (1994)
- Gave Van Niets (1994)
- Jérémiades (1995)
- Entre Dos Mares (1996)
- Jardin Clos (1996)
- Lisa (1996)
- As Hay In The Sun (1996)
- Sin Embargo (1997)
- Best Of (1997)
- In 3 or 4 Days (1998)
- And Bring You Back (1998)
- Father Damien (1999)
- Integer Valor Integrale (1999)
- Alle Dinghe (2000)
- Der Heisse Brei (2000)
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