Jozef Van Wissem
Jozef Van Wissem

Jozef Van Wissem

About Jozef Van Wissem

Jozef Van Wissem is a Dutch lutenist and post-minimalist composer who has been adapting via tablature and improvising on music written for his instrument circa 1600 A.D. Touring incessantly and performing at churches, galleries, and rock festivals alike, he has made Baroque music accessible to 21st century audiences interested in experimental and indie music. He is a prolific recording artist who has released many albums since 2000, ranging from solo lute efforts such as that year's Retrograde Renaissance Lute: A Classical Deconstruction to more avant-garde releases incorporating field recordings and electronics, including 2005's Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear and 2007's Stations of the Cross. Later albums, such as 2014's It Is Time for You to Return, also incorporate his deep vocals. He has worked extensively with Jim Jarmusch, winning a Soundtrack Award at the Cannes Film Festival for his score to the director's 2013 film Only Lovers Left Alive, as well as recording albums together such as 2019's An Attempt to Draw Aside the Veil. He has recorded albums with James Blackshaw, Gary Lucas, and Tetuzi Akiyama, among many others. Van Wissem's work has been commissioned by London's National Gallery to accompany Hans Hoberlien's painting The Ambassadors, and he has written the music to the video game The Sims Medieval.
Van Wissem's first instrument was the guitar. He studied classical music throughout his teens while being aware and a fan of emergent rock & roll sounds emanating from punk. In the 1980s he was guitarist and frontman for the post-punk/new wave act Desert Corbusier and a bar owner. Eventually tiring of the rock & roll lifestyle, he sought quieter, more focused music. Remembering the transposition of the lute repertoire for guitar, he decided to learn the instrument. He sold his bar, moved to New York, and studied the instrument formally with Patrick O'Brien, developing his own style of mirroring, via tablature, the canon for the instrument from the Middle Ages -- beginning at the bottom left and finishing at the top right, inserting improvisation, new sections, and interludes along the way.
Van Wissem's debut album, Retrograde Renaissance Lute: A Classical Deconstruction, appeared on Persephone in 2000. It startled listeners in Europe and the United States and won a surprisingly large number of press reviews. He followed it with Narcissus Drowning in 2002. In 2003, Van Wissem recorded Diplopia, his first collaborative album with Lucas. It was the first of six for Willem Breuker's BVHaast label that also included Simulacrum: Mirror Images for Solo Lute and Electronics, issued the same year, The Universe of Absence with Lucas and Proletarian Drift with Akiyama in 2004, the solo Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear in 2005, and A Rose by Any Other Name: Anonymous Lute Solos of the Golden Age, which was the debut from Incunabulum in conjunction with BVHaast in 2006. A further collaboration with Akiyama was released by Van Wissem's label in 2007 entitled Hymn for a Fallen Angel; the solo Stations of the Cross appeared as well. In 2008, Van Wissem and Blackshaw recorded two albums as Brethren of the Free Spirit, The Wolf Shall Also Dwell with the Lamb (via Important) and All Things Are from Him, Through Him and in Him (through audioMER). He also released his solo album A Priori via Incunabulum.
Van Wissem's reputation was spreading far and wide. He was regularly reviewed not only by the independent music press, but his international live appearances were reviewed by television and radio and in print. Between 2009 and 2011, he released three more albums with Important: It Is All That Is Made, Ex Patris, and The Joy That Never Ends. Van Wissem began recording collaboratively in 2011. Suite the Hen's Teeth with Smegma and Downland with United Bible Studies both appeared. His recorded collaborations with film director and musician Jarmusch began in earnest with 2012's Apokatastasis, which was followed quickly by Concerning the Entrance into Eternity and The Mystery of Heaven. Each release was on a different label. That year also saw the release of Movement in Marble/Stone with electro-acoustic composer Gregg Kowalsky.
In 2013, Van Wissem issued the solo album Nihil Obstat on Important, and with it the title track to the score for Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive, in collaboration with the director's band SQÜRL. The full soundtrack, which also featured Yasmine Hamdan, Zola Jesus, and Madeline Follin (Cults), was released in 2014, after the score won the Cannes Award. In December, Van Wissem issued the solo album It Is Time for You to Return on Crammed Discs. That album featured Föllakzoid's Domingo Garcia-Huidobro, who directed the dreamlike 2012 film Partir to Live; Van Wissem also collaborated on the score, which was released in 2015 by Sacred Bones. When Shall This Bright Day Begin, featuring guest vocals by Zola Jesus, was released by Consouling Sounds in 2016. The same label released Nobody Living Can Ever Make Me Turn Back in 2017. Van Wissem reactivated Incunabulum for his 2017 release New Lute Music for Film. His third Consouling Sounds release, We Adore You, You Have No Name, followed in 2018. In 2019, Van Wissem and Jarmusch returned to Sacred Bones with the full-length An Attempt to Draw Aside the Veil. ~ Thom Jurek

  • HOMETOWN
    Maastricht, The Netherlands
  • BORN
    November 22, 1962
  • GENRE