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Minimalist composer from Belgium.


"4 mains"
88,3 sec. - 173 Kb.
song : Wim Mertens
Produced : Wim Mertens
Year : 1982
Record co. : Crépuscule

"Close Cover"
39,1 sec. - 77 Kb.
song : Wim Mertens
Produced : Wim Mertens
Year : 1983
Record co. : Crépuscule

"The fosse"
72 sec. - 141 Kb.
song : Wim Mertens
Produced : Wim Mertens
Year : 1984
Record co. : Crépuscule

For audio from "Integer Valor" (1999), click here


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 at hand.

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 at proxis 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)

Websites :
- Since 2001, Wim Mertens has a stylish & complete official website
- Wim Mertens Discography.
- My review of "Integer Valor Integrale"
- Real-audio interview with Wim promoting/explaining "der Heisse Brei" at Netbeat
- Wim Mertens site by Jeroen Medaer

Forum :
- Read the messages/questions about Wim Mertens
- Add your message, question, cd- or concertreview ... about Wim Mertens


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Dirk Houbrechts stopped working at The Belgian Pop & Rock Archives (you can read his personal statement here). The website is now entrusted to the Flanders Music Centre ( Contact:

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