A[we]-struck-ture, 2011
voice, recorder & electronics


WICOMB: "After the very successful collaboration with several Swiss musicians I entertained the possibility of continuing what was established during their residency. Unfortunately the time was just enough to tackle problems and ideas surrounding the commissioned pieces and other important artistic differences and aesthetic goals had to be left for another meeting. One of the interesting aspects which came to the forefront was with the piece Earthed which moved between fixed and more aleatoric notation. They shared their concerns briefly surrounding the notational systems and a fresh project emerged which had at its centre notational systems for improvised music.
I just need to add that the piece Earthed started off as a collaboration between Petra Ronner and I and was based on her improvisational ideas and technique. For that reason the piece was always going to have a strong aleatoric aspect to it. But as I worked with the material by myself my signature started to dominate the aesthetics of the piece and the improvisational and open structure disappeared, only leaving a few choice sections. This brings me back to another aspect which will be explored during the residency and that is finding a balance between the musical goals of the composer and improvisor. And for this situation to run smoothly it is very important for the musicians to know each other well as is also stated in the pioneering article "Reacting" (1970) of Vinko Globokar. The article focuses especially on group improvising and the merits a group presents when improvising. The ideal scenario for improvising, is also subject matter that is explained in depth in the article.
Petra is a solo artist and she suggested that I make contact with ensembles to explore group dynamics. I used the Swiss data base which lists ensembles and shared my ideas via e-mail about a possible project with chosen ensembles. A few ensembles responded including Ums `n Jip, Potage du Jour and Kontrabassduo Studer-Frey, which showed interest and would like to meet and collaborate. The ideal situation would be to have as many as possible rehearsing sessions with the ensembles (or whoever is available) and have the luxury of trying out different ideas and having constant feedback with experienced musicians and to let their input have an ongoing and immediate effect on the proposed compositions. The selected ensembles could roughly be devided into two groups, musicians who are mainly improvisors (Potage du Jour and Kontrabassduo) and those who are interpreters also able to function comfortably in a more improvisational sphere (Ums `n Jip). The current idea is to create a specific Midi soundtrack, using Sibelius software, with different instrumental accompaniment for the two groups of ensembles. The one notational version would be quite exact for `Ums `n Jip`, while the other would leave quite a lot of musical options, leaning more towards the `free` improvisation for `Kontrabassduo` and `Potage du Jour`. This will create the possibility of practical research between the two kinds of groups through comparative methods.
The ideas of the project are crystalized in the title, A[we]-struck-ture, which encompass, for me, the two opposing directions in this musical style. On the one hand you have the phenomenon present in improvisation: intuition and real-time generation of musical material (awestruck by a musical idea; suggesting spontaneity) and on the other the phenomenon [more] present in composed/determinate music: structure."


A[we]-struc[k]-ture (Soundcloud)



Pierre-Henri Wicomb was born in Stellenbosch, South Africa in 1976. He started taking piano lessons at the age of six. His early attempts at composing started around the middle of his primary school years. He enrolled at the University of Stellenbosch in 1995 taking composition as his main subject. During this period Pierre-Henri had lots of interaction with other art disciplines and was very interested in the theatrical aspects surrounding sound generation. This period was dictated by performance art projects.
After completing his bachelors and honors degrees he started his masters degree in composition under the guidance of Hendrik Hofmeyr at the University of Cape town. In the year the degree was awarded Pierre-Henri received a bursary to study overseas, from a Dutch organization, NZAV. He also received the Van Ewyck Stichting bursary during this period. He was accepted at the Royal Conservatory in Den Haag and studied there for 2 years under Gilius van Bergeijk, Diderik Wagenaar and Martijn Padding. During his studies he and a few other composers started the choreographed-sound improvisation group Woof . The group explored the choreographed movement surrounding sound generation using everyday objects. This theme was later revisited in the experimental short film Sounding.

In Pierre-Henri`s music there is often the process of `translating` abstract and philosophical `ideas into musical structures. The interest in improvising, which probably finds its origin in his earlier semi-aleatoric pieces, is also audible in his notated compositions. In these pieces he is constantly striving towards an uncomfortable familiarity especially in his implementation of `harmony`. There is always the dichotomy in his aesthetics between an unsophisticated and delicate sound-world. An analogy which he finds exciting is, the music which would arise if amateur musicians were improvising.

In 2005 he started experimenting with Midi and specifically the notation program Sibelius. Compositions, which has such an absurd level of difficulty, are `performed` by the program in a way which is not always representative of the notation being used and therefore a different sophisticated electronic sound-world is produced. The idea of using the software /Midi as a substitution for real instruments is therefore overthrown and the first piece from these experimentations was Play.Playable.Playing. which premiered at the Korzo Theatre, Den Haag 2005.
Pierre-Henri was chosen to work with the Asko ensemble in 2006. He wrote a piece for them, Polaroid, which was premiered at the Paradiso Theatre in Amsterdam and also broadcasted over the local radio station, Concert Zender. After receiving one of the highest marks in the composition department for his studies, the Royal Conservatory nominated him for the prestiges Huygens scholarship.
His music has also been broadcasted over Swedish and South African radio stations and played in Brazil, America and Switzerland.

After finishing the first part of his studies Pierre-Henri had to return to South Africa where he is currently residing. He together with other South African composers founded the new music ensemble EJNCP which performs frequently. In Pierre-Henri`s latest project he worked together with the swiss pianist Petra Ronner (funded by Pro Helvetia) . She performed his “Where Music is…” and “Earthed” for solo piano, “live” mini jacks and soundtrack at the International New Music Festival in Durban (2010). Pierre-Henri was recently chosen to do a reading and recording session with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra in Kwazulu-Natal of his orchestral piece Roads To And Fro.