Wilhelm Matthies

Wilhelm Matthies, born 1959, studied visual arts at the Universities of South Carolina and Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. When also studying at U. of Illinois-Chicago, he began an interest in designing acoustic instruments based on blending aspects of historical world instruments.

In the last few years, his ability to compose visually, design and build a line of instruments and to play the instruments has merged. In particular, he has composed drawings that feature contrasts and blends meant to be performed in poetically oriented (as opposed to narrative) cyclical variations. They are open ended compositions with the expectation of making full use of the sonic qualities of the instrument. The instrument is designed to accommodate a large range of sound qualities.

When looking at and reflecting on events in his life and in his surroundings, the cyclical variation format seems to him to embody the way that events are often experienced. Each moment in performance is thus connected to every other moment by commenting on the memory of the moment, while also being present to it but also anticipating the future within the boundaries of a particularly contoured event. The overall structure is planned and the details are improvised.

Instrumentally, pieces are mostly bowed, sometimes plucked, but always pushing the edge of sounds that can be made on this current line of instruments called mosesa. Often the sounds are transitioning between harmonics, overtones and purer tones, while also glissando. So a main, central idea is that the music expresses moments of impermanence viewed and heard from various simultaneous angles.

Wilhelm Matthies has also performed free improvisations and graphic compositions, in particular with Paulo Chagas, Matthias Boss, John Daly (aka Tunedin52), Hervé Perez, Guy-Frank Pellerin, Stefan Schmidt, George Christian, Mehata Hiroshi (Mehata Sentimental Legend), Paul Mimlitsch, among others, mostly via internet collaboration. Recently, he has also played live free improvisations and has also used graphic compositions live with musicians centered in Milwaukee, including Jason Wietlispach, Mark Mantel, Hal Rammel, Joshua Lesniak, David Are, Paul Westfahl, Cody Steinmann, Rick Ollman, Jay Mollerskov and Rob Lundberg.

Wilhelm Matthies is the creative director of the micro net label, darkpebble-bluewave.

Photo by Gina Litherland