Wim Mertens

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Wim Mertens
Background information
Born (1953-05-14) 14 May 1953 (age 68)
Neerpelt, Belgium
Genres New-age, avant-garde, contemporary classical
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Labels Windham Hill
Website www.wimmertens.be

Wim Mertens (born 14 May 1953) is a Flemish Belgian composer, countertenor vocalist, pianist, guitarist, and musicologist.


Life and work

Mertens was born in Neerpelt, Belgium. He studied social and political science at the University of Leuven (graduating in 1975) and musicology at Ghent University; he also studied music theory and piano at the Ghent Conservatory and the Royal Conservatory of Brussels.

In 1978, he became a producer at the then BRT (Belgian Radio and Television, now called Vlaamse Radio- en Televisieomroep). For Radio 2 (Radio Brabant) he produced concerts by Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Meredith Monk, Urban Sax and others, and hosted a program called Funky Town together with Gust De Meyer (with whom he recorded the experimental album For Amusement Only).

Known primarily as a composer since the early 1980s, Mertens began developing a reputation after releasing "Struggle for Pleasure", under the name of his early ensemble Soft Verdict, and for "Maximizing the Audience", which was composed for Jan Fabre's play The Power of Theatrical Madness, which premiered in 1984 in Venice, Italy.

Mertens' style has continually evolved during the course of his prolific career, starting from downright experimental and avant-garde, always gravitating around minimalism, usually, however, preserving a melodic foundation to the forays that he makes into the worlds that he is exploring. His compositional quality has often overweighted the "labelling issue" and reached wider audiences although stemming from a far-from-mainstream musical context (see section In popular culture). One can follow three separate threads of musical styles throughout his work:

  1. Compositions for ensemble, perhaps his most accessible and "commercial" material;
  2. Solo piano and voice compositions, which features haunting keyboard melodies accompanied by Mertens' unique high-pitched tenor voice singing in an invented, personal language; and
  3. Experimental minimalist "cycles" for single, dual, and sometimes more instruments.

Mertens has released more than 60 albums to date, the majority of which were issued by Les Disques du Crépuscule from 1980 until 2004. Mertens also produced a number of Crépuscule releases and consulted with the label on its choice of works by contemporary composers such as Michael Nyman, Gavin Bryars, and Glenn Branca. Mertens also curated a series of releases for a Crépuscle imprint, Lome Armé, that featured works from the classical era as well as contemporary jazz.

In August 2007 Mertens signed a contract with EMI Classics (now Warner Classics) for his entire catalog. [1] The label re-released his entire back-catalog beginning in January 2008. EMI Music Belgium also released Mertens' new work, beginning with the 9-track album Receptacle on 24 September 2007. For this album Mertens decided to work with an orchestra consisting of only women, 17 in total. It is not the first time that Mertens worked with EMI. Already in 1999, Mertens released the soundtrack to the Paul Cox film Molokai: The Story of Father Damien via EMI Classics.

Mertens is the author of American Minimal Music, [2] which looks at the school of American repetitive music and the work of LaMonte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass.


- Soft Verdict (by Wim Mertens & Herman Lemahieu as a duo music composers (1982-1985 are the 1st 4 years from Wim Mertens' music career):

- Wim Mertens (per 1986 is Wim Mertens a solo music composer without Herman Lemahieu):

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  1. "Wim Mertens signs with EMI and set to release entire back-catalogue".
  2. Mertens, Wim (1983). American Minimal Music. Translated by J. Hautekiet. Preface by Michael Nyman. London: Kahn & Averill; White Plains, New York: Pro/Am Music Resources Inc. First published in Belgium in 1980. ISBN   1-871082-00-5; ISBN   0-912483-15-6.