"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
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.
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.
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
His music has also been broadcasted over Swedish and South African
radio stations and played in Brazil, America and Switzerland.
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.