May 13, 2021

Wim Mertens: “Europe has been too long to settle for repeating the past”



Wim Mertens started making music in 1980 just for fun. That was the title of his debut album, which hid a critique against the rigidity that dominates music, even the avant-garde that rejects corsets. Mertens himself, a student of Musicology, Musical Theory and other skills at the Conservatory, was looking for a path that would free him from the learned and from himself, as long as the answers appeared with music as “work in progress”, as a liberating manifestation. 40 years later, he has published «Inescapable», a monumental exercise in the selection of his work, composed of the enormity of 717 pieces. The Belgian reviews his career on January 28 in Madrid, 31 in Barcelona and February 1 in Seville.

– How did the selection?

– Someone did it for me, because I didn’t want to look back in that complete and radical way. I think I work better when I look forward. The future is what gives me energy. I didn’t want it to be chronological. The ambition was also to create a new order, a new soundtrack.

–He has made a rereading of his career.

-Yes. That is why it was essential to avoid sticking to a sound, but to open them.

– Did you think about your career, in perspective?

– The title, “inevitable”, speaks of a notion, which is that of the idea of ​​theoretical practice. When I was young, all that was discussed were technical aspects and few ideas about what music is about and how it is changing.

– Do young people see it differently?

–I try to inspire you to think about these things. Music is not isolated from society, it is linked to family and the street and each generation has to face questions. The theory not only speaks of that, of musical technique, but of how society changes so quickly, for example. What do we think of the authority, of our parents and of the school? Does a composer have authority?

– What do you think about authority?

– I think we can no longer accept authority, because it is free. In all facets of society. I am also critical of the concept of authorship for example. I think the public is the last link in the chain, who decides if my pieces work or not. The order is no longer based on the classical tradition of the teachers, we live a confusing time and I am happy with that.

– Europe is the first thing that has lost authority.

– Europe has to change the way we communicate with each other or it will disappear as an important political and artistic entity. Every year we feel this stronger crisis in different countries and I as a musician do not have to give concrete solutions but the artists can give directions on how we act and compose to find a new attitude.

– Making music above nationalities and creeds is already political.

-Exact. Demonstrate or include new ways of formulating things. That is why we need new music, new painting, new books, and so on. Europe has long been content to reproduce the past, museums and that. And as there is less and less budget for young people, I think they should be encouraged to restate things. In the 80s a new language was sought with very limited means and the time has come to start something new.

–You tried to break free.

– I had no plans or programs in 1980. It was one of my mottos, so I didn’t want to proceed with anything other than the natural way. I don’t trust music notations, I want the voice to be free. Before sitting on paper, to make decisions on a theoretical level, the compositional technique, you have to listen to the music itself.

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