The composer with holy book, custom lute and Thoreau essay
Writers usually describe Jozef van Wissem as a composer who plays the lute, which might create the mistaken impression that his music sounds like the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble. It’s closer to stoner rock. Some DM readers will know his collaborations with Gary Lucas of the Magic Band, Zola Jesus, and Jim Jarmusch. His excellent score for Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive won the Cannes Soundtrack Award in 2013.
Van Wissem says his new album, Nobody Living Can Ever Make Me Turn Back, is “a follow up of sorts” to music he wrote for the National Gallery in 2008 to accompany Hans Holbein the Younger’s painting “The Ambassadors,” an image “famous for its anamorphic skull.” Everything on this record is a reminder of mortality, from Cindy Wright’s cover art to the 13 ringing minutes of “Our Bones Lie Scattered Before The Pit.”
Though the album’s title sounds vaguely like something you might find inscribed in Latin on the walls of the Paris Catacombs, or in Greek in an Orphic temple, it’s actually the penultimate line of “This Land Is Your Land”:
Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.
Van Wissem seems to ask, What about the dead?
Cindy Wright’s cover art for ‘Nobody Living Can Ever Make Me Turn Back’
In the video for the album’s first track, “Virium Illarum” (Latin for “of those powers”), van Wissem and Jacopo Benassi find a use for their set of matryoshka coffins. Director Federico Pepe explains what they’re up to:
A single moment can make a life, a simple shade of a happening can become stone in our memory, a voice once heard can be guidance for a lifetime. That means that they all deserve to be categorized or “buried” in our minds and souls with the same importance.
Jozef Van Wissem is playing in Moscow tonight and touring Europe through December. Earlier this year, he self-released the live album New Lute Music for Film. Consouling Sounds will issue Nobody Living Can Ever Make Me Turn Back on LP and CD on November 10.