Wim Mertens


I just read that Wim Mertens released a DVD titled What you see is what you hear. I think this may be the first time Wim Mertens has released a live video. I just ordered it and look forward to seeing Wim Mertens in concert for the first time.

Wim Mertens is a Belgian composer who became quite well known and popular with compositions like Struggle for Pleasure, Close Cover and Maximizing the Audience. He appears to be very popular especially in Spain. Some of his work has even been covered into techno versions (which I’m honestly not a big fan of).

I heard his music for the first time in a film called Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea also known as Li by Marion Hänsel, starring Stephen Rea and Ling Chu. Wim Mertens contributed a strong, moving soundtrack to the story about a friendship between a middle-aged man and a young Chinese girl. The man is a sad and lonely radio operator of a merchant ship who tries to forget his sorrow by smoking opium. The girl supports her family by offering cleaning and housekeeping services on the ships in the harbor.

Both this film and its soundtrack left a lasting impression on me. I began to explore Wim Mertens’ other works for a while. I would describe his work with three categories:

  • His minimal, experimental work released with albums like Alle Dinghe and Gave van Niets
  • His more accessible, popular classical work with his ensemble
  • His more intimate sounding works for piano and voice, which are my favorite and what first caught my attention.

One album, Sin Embargo, was very different in that he played the guitar and even whistles on one track The Scene. The first live-album Epic That Never Was together with the soundtrack A Man Of No Fortune, And With A Name To Come were some of my favorites for many years.

Unfortunately, he released so many albums in very small quantities–it was difficult to collect his work from the very beginning. He also began to release such a vast amount of albums, most of which I did not enjoy as much as his earlier work, that eventually, I stopped collecting his work and didn’t follow the material he produced in recent years.

Not having listened to much of his music in the past few years this DVD is going to be a nice treat. Not only get I listen to his music again, but also actually watch him with 16 compositions selected from his 25 years’ career, recorded in the Roma in Antwerpen on 30th September 2005 with an ensemble of 12 musicians with 6 female singers, 5 strings and Wim Mertens himself, piano and voice.

Wim Mertens also wrote a book American Minimal Music discussing work of composers like Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass.