Pierre-Henri Wicomb


Pierre-Henri Wicomb, a South African composer, completed a Masters Degree in composition at the University of Cape Town and Post Graduate studies at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague and is currently working on his PhD at the institute Africa Open realising an Opera underpinned by the superimposition of two dyadic practices: psychoanalysis and music composition.

Wicomb is an acoustic composer, but also working in the field of electroacoustic music, which focusses on his experimentations with MIDI. Wicomb’s music has featured at the Festival D’Automne (Paris), New York City Electronic Music Festival (New York), International Computer Music Conference (ICMC, Utrecht), Avignon Festival, Forum Wallis 2013 and 2014 (Leuk, Switzerland), Wilde Bloesem series in Amsterdam, Infecting the City and Unyazi festivals (Cape Town) to name a few, including performances and broadcasts in Sweden, Mozambique, Portugal, Germany and Brazil. He together with a colleague founded the annual Purpur Festival for transgressive arts in Cape Town hosting national and international artists and composers. Wicomb curated the electroacoustic project ‘Concert To’ which included the works of 11 South African composers diffused at the Cape Town Train station, Sasol Arts Museum and festivals abroad, including the featuring of Wicomb’s piece Birds’ Birds over Radio France.

Wicomb has been a recipient of residencies in Switzerland, Sweden (VICC) and South Africa and winner of the  Fleur du Cap award for best original soundtrack or score, New Music SA commission competition and ensemble DissonArt’s miniature project. He has worked with ensembles such as L’Instant Donne, Ensemble Reconsil, Ensemble Insomnio, Asko ensemble, Stockholm Saxophone Quartet, South African New Music Ensemble (SANME) and the Kwazulu Natal Philharmonic Orchestra.


This project is underpinned by the superimposition of two dyadic practices: psychoanalysis and music composition. The former is exemplified by the different approaches of a psychoanalyst and analysand/s; the latter of a composer and musician (free) improviser. A relationship comprising of a composer and an improvising ensemble is highly unusual because of both parties’ pre-occupation with dominance and authorship within a composition. The conventional composer requires the services of the interpretive musician responsible for performing his/her composition by faithful realisation of the closed score. I propose that these over-determined roles with disciplinary embedded interests be challenged and studied by casting the relational transactions (involving power, dominance, obedience, discipline, trust, safety, vulnerability, inter-subjective dynamics, etc.) between composer and performers as psychological processes. An improvisational opera that enacts these relational transactions, will provide a musical and intellectual laboratory for staging this idea.