JOZEF VAN WISSEM
ASHOKE SEN Brooke Sietinsons (projections), Mary Lattimore (harp), Michael Barker (electronics, processing, homemade instruments)
@ Physick House Museum
321 South 4th Street
8pm, $10, $8 in advance
Much of the work of Jozef van Wissem is based on the application of
mirror images to lute composition. The work is idiomatic to lute
tablature of around AD 1600. Through study in New York City with
Patrick O'Brien, he discovered that from the Middle Ages on, one of
the variations on the cantus firmus (the given melody) is the
backwards performance of the melody. As a result, on his first group
of compositions, released as a CD Retrograde. A Classical
Deconstruction (Persephone 002), Van Wissem wrote out mirror images of
hundreds of classical lute tablature pieces, copying them out from the
bottom right to the top left corner. To these inversions he added new
themes, accents and rhythms. He then applied the "cut up" technique of
writer William Burroughs and cut, shifted, mixed and pasted the parts
together to create new works. One critic has compared this work to
that of German painter Georg Baselitz, who paints upside down.
The second installment in the application of mirror images was the CD
Narcissus Drowning (Persephone 003). This work is based on musical
palindromes, structures which sound the same when played forward or
backwards. To this CD of self-composed pieces van Wissem added
percussion and lute electronics. On his third CD Diplopia (BVHaast
0103), which also appropriated some original classical lute
compositions, Gary Lucas played a steel guitar while van Wissem played
a renaissance lute with occasional electronics. The fourth solo lute
recording Simulacrum (Bvhaast 0104) consists of wolf notes and
palindrome lute compositions.
JOZEF VAN WISSEM lute Netherlands / New York
Jozef van Wissem probably plays and composes for the most unlikely instruments in the world of contemporary improvised music: the Renaissance and Baroque lute. He has accomplished the strange feat of bridging the idiom of seventeenth century lute literature and twenty-first century free improv of the silent type. Although Van Wissem uses subtle electronic sound manipulation, he has largely stayed faithful to the particular timbre, resonance and playing technique of the lute. Van Wissem first came to be noticed a few years ago because of his radical conceptual approach to Renaissance lute music: he deconstructed existing compositions, for instance by playing them backwards. He also composed his own pieces for lute, using palindromes and mirrored structures. His music therefore does not have a traditional linear progression, nor leads to a climax, it rather stays on the same level of intensity. His music is quiet and not so much demands concentrated listening, as it will bring the listener in a state of concentrated listening - an aspect that makes Van Wissem a natural ally of the current post-reductionist improvising musicians. Van Wissem also runs the Incunabulum label, and performs regularly around the world in duo with guitar-wizard of Captain Beefheart-fame, Gary Lucas. He also works with M.B. / Maurizio Bianchi., Tetuzi Akiyama and Elliot Sharp.
Jozef van Wissem attracted attention with his first work for solo lute entitled "Retrograde, A Classical Deconstruction" which consisted of the backwards rendition of original solo lute compositions from around 1600. For two years he appropriated hundreds of original lute compositions to create this work which was inspired by his studies of Renaissance lute with Pat O'Brian in New York City. He discovered that from the Middle Ages on, a common technique in lute composition was the backwards performance of the melody.In general van Wissem's work takes the classical ideas and techniques of lute composition such as retrograde melodies and the application of mirror images, another technique idiomatic to lute tablature of around 1600, and brings them in to the 21 Century. He writes the tablature from bottom right corner to top left and to these inversions he adds new themes, accents and rhythms. In addition he has applied the cut up technique of writer William Burroughs and cut shifted, mixed and pasted the parts together so that a new entity arises. Instead of going back into history to seek out original conventions he moved backward in search of something new. The second application of the mirror images is heard on his CD's "Simulacrum" and "Objects in Mirror are Closer than they Appear". This work is based on musical palindromes, structures which sound the same when played forwards or backwards. His work with palindromes and mirror images are also related to concepts derived from the teaching of Gilles Deleuze and Lacan. His CD, "Simulacrum" consists of works using a combination of long lute notes, which are electronically enhanced in the studio and palindrome compositions, including bransles, which were written for dance. The lute electronics are achieved by inserting a microphone in to the inside body of the lute to capture certain overtones and frequencies allowing him to perform while moving around a large space. His fifth cd "Objects in Mirror are closer than they appear" consists of manipulated airfield recordings, lute palindromes and electronics. His cd "A Rose by any Other name" consists of classical lute pieces from the Golden Age by anonymous composers. Van Wissem has toured extensively, as soloist or together with the likes of Tetuzi Akiyama and Gary Lucas.
bowerbird@LANDMARKS is an ongoing curatorial partnership that expands cultural offerings in Philadelphia by bringing experimental and improvisational music, film, dance and other creative, genre-defying performing arts to historic sites in the region.
Showcasing the newest performing arts is nothing new for Landmarks' four historic, 18th century houses---Grumblethorpe, Physick House, Powel House and Waynesborough. These houses would often have been the locations for recitals of the most "fashionable" music of their time. Powel House which was the one of the most significant cultural and social centers of colonial and revolutionary Philadelphia. Events in the bowerbird@LANDMARKS series revive this long-lost tradition of intimate concerts, and provide an intelligent alternative for contemporary audiences.
What can you expect if you attend a bowerbird@LANDMARKS performance? You can expect to hear some of the most innovative, avant-garde music being produced by local, national and international artists. You can expect to be challenged to expand your definitions of music, and to leave behind your preconceptions. Each performance will involve some risk-taking by both the performer and the audience member, but if you come with an open mind, and we promise to provide you with a uniquely stimulating experience.