“With regard to the general subject of the life of souls, that is, of novitiate spirits, after death, I may state that much experience has shown that when a man comes into the other life he is not aware that he is in that life, but supposes that he is still in this world, and even that he is still in the body. So much is this the case that when told he is a spirit, wonder and amazement possess him, both because he finds himself exactly like a man, in his senses, desires and thoughts, and because during this life in this world he had not believed in the existence of the spirit, or, as is the case with some, that the spirit could be what he now finds it to be.”
- The mysteries of Heaven, Emanuel Swedenborg, 1750
The above is a quote on the inside cover of this wonderful disc. This cd is important to me, in that it involved a full 180 degree turn. I didn’t like it at first. I found Van Wissem’s lute to be too prancing and Jarmusch’s guitar and looping to be fraught with inexperienced effort. Then something odd happened, and I “turned”.
Not unlike the “spirit” of the quote on the inside of the dust jacket.
Take a listen to this:
Jozef Van Wissem is a fascinating artist. This is my first introduction to him, and although initially skeptical, I have since meandered through his website and been most impressed by his dedication to retaining the heart and soul od the instrument he uses as well as what he calls on his website “the liberation of the lute.” I confess, in my estimation if ever there was an instrument that required liberation, it is the lute. It was very difficult for me to “hear” on this disc initially. I do have a trained ear (in terms of enthusiasm, philosophy and experience) so I was prepared to confront my baggage, but I found I confronted a banality that I didn’t expect. Perhaps I have a cultural or post-mo0dern suspicion of centuries old “beauty”. In symbolist terms, this music initially occurred to me as a pastel in colour – a tapestry or a velvet flower.
But take a peek at this:
This is what the Lute sounds like as it is being deconstructed, and as this appears to be Van Wissem’s life’s work, I can only suppose this is part of the collaborative thrust of his work with Jarmusch. Listen to track 4:
Jim Jarmusch, we all know, is a director of great established renown. I don’t have access to his thoughts on the album, only to my own understanding – via his films – of his dedication to unearthing the alternative when it comes to perspective. He contributes on this album (and I quote) “electric, acoustic guitar and voice”. His electric guitar is part of the process of liberation for Van Wissem, a kind of symbolic vehicle that adds a ghost of the future to the already always history-sound constructed by the Lute. When the above quote is added to a volume of music that is being played by musicians this devoted to a certain kind of “otherness” one can assume they are speaking about themselves, us, and their instruments. The spirit of their instrument, their music and themselves is invited to awaken into a new world to find the inclusion of all they once were amongst the thrill of everything being new.
The end of our baggage laden ways of hearing, listening and engaging with music and instruments has arrived, even if today the new is encased within the old – literally and theoretically – and is allowing itself to be encased. Perhaps the contemporary musical experience is less about discovering the new. Rather it is a time to finally hear what has always been, between the notes, inside our response, and in the assumptive hands of a dedicated but “classical” musician. That is why, beginning to hear without the prefabricated constructs, one also begins to re-hear past the “baggage of traditions” to a different organization of space. We are currently suspended between two ages of music – WE being the listening (hearing) and the playing (making) of the music. Because we are beginning to play differently, we must learn to hear differently.
And this is what it means to be a new spirit inside an old world, precariously balanced at the entrance to eternity.
This wonderful album can be purchased through the good folk at Important Records
Jozef Van Wissem’s website is worth a visit too.