A Belgium musician gaining prominence out of Europe in the early 1980s, Wim Mertens is a living legend in the classical, New Age and Avant-Garde genres of the music industry today. Despite having very minimal influence on the U.S population, Mertens has tremendous recognition in Europe and is especially known to have a very different and unconventional touch to the music he has composed in the last 3 decades. The usual approach to his music is often labelled as one having key features centering on ‘minimalism’, which is a technique of music that is aesthetic in nature and deliberately refrains from establishing and accomplishing any given goal in a particular sound track. However, what has unequivocally distinguished Mertens’ style of composition is the simple evolution and changes familiar to the techniques employed in his music. What is ideally observed is the contextualization of compositions that are considered soothing to the ear, and the property of being far from main stream. This is exactly what has popularized his music. Over his magnificent career, Mertens has worked on close to 50 albums, using instruments such as the guitar, keyboards, together with various acoustic-electronic techniques and ornamentations.
Born in 1953 in Neepelt, Belgium, Wim Mertens spent the earlier few years of his life in academic settings like the University of Leuven and Ghent University, first studying Political Science but later shifting interests to musicology and the dynamics of various instruments like the piano and guitar. In the late 1970s, Mertens began hosting radio shows and television programs such as Radio 2 and Funky Town, often criticized to be attempts to demonstrate his interests in music production and composition. Not long after, however, Mertens released what is arguably one of his most popular albums titled Struggle for Pleasure (1983). With the production of Maximizing the Audience (1985), it became clear why the earlier works are undoubtedly the most original and appealing albums, with the most sales thus far. While the earlier albums had a particular element of mostly the experimental and Avant-Garde genres, Mertens delved further in to the music world by embracing other styles in albums such as No Testament and A Sense of Place, both released in the early 1990s. Apart from some of his studio productions, Mertens recently released a number of volumes from his Live Years, a collection which was called Without History. The series originally consisted of 6 volumes, but in the last few years, Mertens made the 7th and 8th volumes available as well. Recently, albums called Zee Versus Zed (2010) and A Starry Wisdom (2012) were released, after a brief break from production for Mertens.
His musical contributions have also penetrated in to the film industry, with his earlier music used as sound tracks for movies such as the 1987 classic, The Belly of an Architect. Some of his music has also been used in a Brazilian documentary called Here we are Waiting for You. As late as 1999, Mertens’ music had become so popular amongst film directors that blockbuster hits like Molokai: The Story of Father Damien (1999) had some of his hit singles in the score list.
The incredible themes Wim Mertens incorporates in to his music, together with a unique approach to the compositions have increasingly secured a prominent place for him in popular culture, especially in the social setting of Belgium where he has served as the Cultural Ambassador of Flanders, a town in his home country. When one considers all the artists in the classical and experimental genres who have dared to diversify their interpretation of music, experimented with a wide variety of styles and techniques and have become living examples of a true genius, Wim Mertens is surely one of the few that must come to mind.