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Jozef van Wissem

July 14, 2008

A few observations about the above performance by the lutenist Jozef van Wissem, filmed for Dutch TV:

— Firstly, I hope it’s immediately obvious that Jozef van Wissem is so much more than medieval revivalist, or a museum re-enactor of period pieces. As he states in his website, van Wissem plays “appropriated lute”. And note the electronics.

— The joy is in juxtaposition. Even with that costume, and that haircut, I really don’t get the impression that Jozef van Wissem is being willfully eccentric. He seems more like a marvelous accident who genuinely innocently laughed (or lived) in all the wrong places. Whichever TV producer had the bright idea of filming Jozef in front of a glass window opening up onto a busy road is clearly a genius waiting to happen. I hate cars, but I have to admit that the stream of traffic makes this performance so much more visually compelling. Trans-Europe Express!

— And I have to wonder, is this kind of thing entirely typical of Dutch television? In an essay title Thistles in my Soul, Nick Cave describes in detail seeing Blixa Bargeld for the first time, through the same medium of Dutch TV, as the Birthday Party toured Europe. So ends my knowledge of Dutch TV.

— Jozef collides with other worlds on the records he made with the former Beefheart guitarist Gary Lucas: that is, the sound worlds of the American wilderness heavily implied by Lucas’s semi-civilised slide guitar. These records — The Universe of Absence and Diplopia – sound like John Dowland giving up on Elizabeth sorrow to discover America two hundred years too late, to his inexact disappointment.

— The lute is probably one of the most alien and futuristic instruments in existence. This odd visitor from the recently-discovered European New World will arrive in the old Americas in September, and is due to play at Toronto’s Music Gallery.

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