Devoted to what he terms “The Liberation of the Lute,” Josef van Wissem’s compositions for the instrument have involved a dynamic mix of conceptual, minimalist, classical and improvisational strategies. Over the last two decades, he has used cut-and-paste tactics, created palindromic compositions by playing pieces forwards and then backwards, and used field recordings and free improvisation to create a sound world that is at once meditative and surprising, new and arcane.
He composes mirror image melodies that step up and then back down seemingly without end Van Wissem is able to bridge the language of 17th century music with that of the 21st century without compromising the timbre and resonance of traditional lute playing techniques. An incessantly touring musician, Van Wissem’s hypnotic live shows have taken him all over the world. He has records out on Important Records and his own Incunabulum label and has collaborated with James Blackshaw, Keiji Haino and Jim Jarmusch amongst others.
Van Wissem studied lute in New york with Pat O’Brien.and released a classical lute CD ” A Rose By Any Other Name” consisting of anonymous lute pieces. He lectures on ‘the liberation of the lute’ ( at Harvard, Wesleyan University, Mills College among others) He was commissioned by the National Gallery of London to compose a sound piece to Hans Holbein’s painting “The Ambassadors”. Van Wissem’s work is featured more and more in documentaries and feature films, as well as in the upcoming Sims Medieval video game.
“ the world’s hippest lutanist”
– Village Voice
“In “The Mirror of Eternal Light,” the Dutch lutist Jozef van Wissem catches his own reflection in tender, minimalist picking and gold-spray overdubs.”
– David Fricke, senior editor, Rolling Stone
“I have So Much More To Tell You But You Can Not Bear It Now”