Sleeping Dogs Lie 10sep10: Wim Mertens

The Belgian composer Wim Mertens (born 1953) is an international recording and performing artist who has given several concerts, as a soloist and with his ensemble all over Europe, in North and Central America, Japan and in Russia. Mertens plays the piano and the classical guitar. He sings in a characteristically high-pitched voice, using a carefully crafted personal language. Since 1980 he has composed many pieces in different formats, from short, accessible songs or Lieder to magnanimous and complex three and four parts cycles, and for different settings: from piano solo to chamber music ensembles and symphonic orchestra. He often writes for unusual instrumentations: twelve piccolos, ten bass trombones, thirteen clarinets.

Since his recording debut in 1980, titled For Amusement Only, an electronic composition for pinball machines, Wim Mertens has released more than 50 albums. He wrote American Minimal Music, the first book which deals in depth with the school of American repetitive music. Early landmark albums are Vergessen (1982) and Struggle For Pleasure, which includes Close Cover, still one of his classics.

The 1985 album Maximizing The Audience, marks the introduction of the vocal element in Mertens’ music. Throughout the years the composer has expressed the increasing vocal inspiration of his music on piano and voice albums such as A man of no fortune, and with a name to come (1986), After virtue (1988) and Stratégie de la rupture (1991), Jérémiades (1995), Der heisse brei (2000) and Un respiro (2005).

Other special releases included the 1997’s guitar album Sin embargo and Moment (2003), a 13 albums box set covering the period 1980-1989 with 80 compositions.

In 2002, Wim Mertens started with the release of a live series entitled Years without history composed of live recordings completed since the 80’s. The series includes so far 7 albums: Moins de mètre, assez de rythme (2002), In the absence of hindrance (2002), Cave musicam (2002), Not yet, no longer (2004), With no need for seeds (2004), The promise kept in advance (2008, only included in the 6 cd’s box set Years without history vol. 1-6) and Nosotros (2008).

Wim Mertens also works for the theatre and the movies. He wrote several scores such as Jan Fabre’s performance’s The Power of theatrical madness (1984), Peter Greenaway’s film The belly of an architect (1987), Je pense à vous by the brothers Luc and Jean- Pierre Dardenne, Marion Hänsel’s film Li – Between the devil and the deep blue sea (1992), Paul Cox’s Father Damien (1999), among others.

Currently the artist is performing with different formations: Solo piano, Duo (violin, piano), Piano trio (violin, cello, piano) with different Ensembles and also with Symphonic Orchestra.

2009’s releases include the box set Music and film, composed of three cd’s covering a large selection of Mertens’ film music and the re-release of the 1999 soundtrack album Father Damien. In June 2009, EMI Classics gathers together for the first time the cycle Qua, started in 1990 avec Alle dinghe, followed by Gave van niets in 1994, Kere weerom in 1999 and Aren lezen in 2001. The 37 albums are now available in an elegant box set. At the same time, the new Wim Mertens ensemble studio album The world tout court is released. Wim Mertens discography is now available worldwide on EMI Classics, except in Spain where it is licensed to Warner Music Spain.

His latest studio album, Zee versus Zed, was released in April 2010. With Zee versus Zed Mertens releases 10 pieces for an ensemble composed of strings, brass, harp and guitar. With titles such as Zusammensetzen, Zing’up, Zoet’kemiesch and the vocal Z’s rival, the last letter of the alphabet serves as a fil conducteur for the new album.

Wim Mertens will be playing solo for the first time in the UK on Thursday, 04 November 2010, at Kings Place, as part of the London International Festival of Exploratory Music. Buy tickets here

01. Wim Mertens: “Mystik” (11:25) from “For Amusement Only – The Sound of Pinball Machines” (1980)
02. Wim Mertens: “C·Ntentu Melodiae” (2:30) from “Ver Veranderingen” (1981)
03. Wim Mertens: “That Strange Attractor” (8:12) from “At Home / Not At Home” (1982)
04. Wim Mertens: “Not At Home (Reprise)” (5:14) from “At Home / Not At Home” (1982)
05. Wim Mertens: “Inergys” (3:08) from “Vergessen” (1982)
06. Wim Mertens: “Circular Breathing” (3:47) from “Vergessen” (1982)
07. Wim Mertens: “4 Mains” (3:11) from “Vergessen” (1982)
08. Wim Mertens: “Inergys (Reprise)” (7:00) from “Vergessen” (1982)
09. Wim Mertens: “Tourtour” (2:35) from “Struggle For Pleasure” (1983)
10. Wim Mertens: “Struggle For Pleasure” (3:57) from “Struggle For Pleasure” (1983)
11. Wim Mertens: “Close Cover” (3:21) from “Struggle For Pleasure” (1983)
12. Wim Mertens: “Bresque” (2:38) from “Struggle For Pleasure” (1983)