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Thursday, November 17, 2011

The lute: a dinosaur-like instrument or...



The lute is a chordophone, a wooden instrument that produces sound through the vibration of stretched strings. It is in the same family as the harp, guitar, lyre, and zither. We tend to think of the lute as a medieval European instrument, from the Rennaissance and Baroque era. But it derives from the Arabian oud and its evolution really dates back to at least Egyptian times, in the 14th century BC.

Much of the music that was played on the lute during the Renaissance period was improvised and so it was largely not recorded in written form. The music was similar to what was being played on keyboard at the time and was usually accompanied by voice. You probably associate the lute with the complex fantasias and fugues of the Romantic period.

But forget the complicated medieval music that you associate with the lute. Jozef van Wissem brings his own modern minimalist compositions to the instrument, incorporating hypnotic musical palindromes. This is Van Wissem's 14th release to date, some of which came out on his own Incunabulum imprint.

Uncredited sales notes:
"It Is All That Is Made consists of six trance-inducing circular pieces composed for 10 course renaissance -- and 13 course baroque lute. The titles of the pieces and the storyline critically juxtapose the first chapter of Genesis with more contemporary narratives. This evokes a parallel to the mixing of idiomatic classical lute material of the 17th century with modern folk and avantgarde music. The pieces are played forward, then backward, creating music that is potentially without beginning or end. It Is All That Is Made consists of recurring minimal themes emphasizing the listening experience. Composer-lute player Jozef Van Wissem is renowned for his unusual approach to the Renaissance and Baroque lute, probably the most unlikely instruments in the world of contemporary music. He cuts and pastes classical pieces, reverses melodies, adds electronics and processed field recordings made in airport lounges and train stations. The unusual wedlock of composition and improvisation creates an unheard amalgam of contemporary folk and early music. Van Wissem has accomplished the strange feat of bridging the idiom of seventeenth century lute literature and twenty-first century contemporary music. Although he uses subtle electronic sound manipulation, he has largely stayed faithful to the particular timbre, resonance and playing technique of the lute. Van Wissem first came to be noticed a few years ago because of his radical conceptual approach to Renaissance lute music: He deconstructed existing compositions, for instance, by playing them backwards. He also composed his own pieces for lute, using palindromes and mirrored structures. His music therefore does not have a traditional linear progression, nor leads to a climax, it rather stays on the same level of intensity. His music not so much demands concentrated listening, as it brings the listener in a state of concentrated listening. He performs extensively around the world."

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