— The Washington Post
Lute player and composer Jozef Van Wissem often performs in rock venues and could easily pass for a Nordic metal overlord, with thigh-high black leather boots and long, dirty-blond hair. Van Wissem can captivate a room on his own, as unafraid of spare beauty as he is of experimental gambits. When he plays, the melody’s delicate glimmer freezes the moment, begging the listener to come closer as he steps away from the microphone. Van Wissem holds the instrument in front of his chest as the natural sound resonates inside the lute’s boat-like cavity. He’s not only liberating the lute, as he suggests later, but also asking his audience to liberate themselves from accustomed approaches to music.
Van Wissem is
both an avant-garde composer and a baroque lutenist, and thus no stranger to dichotomy (New York Times). He has been
pushing the lute’s agenda out of the academy and into more accessible circles (Pitchfork). Jozef Van Wissem is possibly the best know lute player in the western world. To get into his world is to surrender to the inevitability—and timelessness—of a strange music created at its own pace, in a manner wholly of its creator’s making. He sets the listener into a private world, looking out through a glass darkly, such is the intense quality of the music. Brevity, simplicity, directness is the key” (The Quietus)
The titles of his works often have a Christian-mystical appeal. Van Wissem moved to New York in 1993 and studied lute with Pat O’Brien. In 2013 he won the Cannes Soundtrack Award for best score at the Cannes Film Festival for “Only Lovers Left Alive”. A prolific composer of music for film, Van Wissem has released four records with the film director Jim Jarmusch.
In December 2017 he was invited to perform the madrigal depicted in Caravaggio’s painting ‘The Lute Player ‘(1596) at The Hermitage. In February 2021 Van Wissem premiered a new black Baroque lute on Dutch National TV. The instrument had the Latin words “Ex Mortis” inscribed in the neck. Humo Magazine wrote, “Eight minutes of Jozef van Wissem: the Dutch lute player from New York, who presents his art as a kind of mix between a medieval monk and a Satanist Rasputin.” In 2022 Van Wissem released the neo- classical solo lute record ” Behold I Make All Things New”. Commissioned by La Cinémathèque Française, Van Wissem composed and released a new soundtrack to the restored Nosferatu vampire film. According to the New York Times “The soundtrack goes from silence to noise over the course of 90 minutes, culminating in dense, slow death metal.” In 2022 four of his compositions were featured in the Irma Vep Series on HBO. His piece ” Temple Dance Of The Soul” was featured in the trailer and under the Alica Vikander mirror scene in the series.