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photo credit: Veera Vehkasalo

The Autophagy Cycle

A cycle of three pieces based on feedback augmented instruments.



 2016 - 2024

Kone Foundation, Centre henri Pousseurs, Suomen Kultturi Rahasto, Concertgebouw Brugge

Autophagy III

Tom De Cock - micro percussions

Andrea Mancianti - sound

Roberto Fusco - lights

The last chapter of the Autophagy Cycle, a modular piece, for micropercussion and live electronics. Here an installation of 16 instruments suspended among the audience, extends the percussion's setup in space and creates an audio-visual counterpoint to the performance. The installation is illuminated by 16 controlled small LED lights through an interactive light design based on a custom system that Roberto Fusco (from quietSpeaker) developed with me.


Both the instruments and the lights are activated by a combination of pre-decided behaviours (in a similar way than an open score) and responses to what sonically happens in the room, which includes Tom’s playing, the sound the installation itself produces and those differences introduced by the audience.


The premiere is on the 18th of February 2024 in Concertgebouw Brugge.

More info coming soon.

Autophagy II

Tom De Cock - Augmented percussions

Maarten Stragier - augmented guitars

Andrea Mancianti - live electronics

This piece is the second episode of a cycle of works on self-driven acoustic instruments and their performative possibilities. It has been written around two instruments whose sound production happens via acoustic means (the resonance of a very large plate in the Tam tam and the vibration of strings in two electric guitars), but which an electro-mechanic augmentation allow to produce sound under very special conditions. Compared to its previous chapter, it is an attempt to build on even more unstable ground.


In each instrument the sound is picked up and fed back to its body of origin via vibrations speakers. The phenomenon this simple coupling produces, generally known as feedback, allows to sustain these instruments's sound indefinitely, showing some of their specific sonic qualities and physical behaviour under a new light.


This augmentation not only radically transforms the instruments as such, but also the way it is possible to interact with them, rendering many of the known performing techniques unusable.


Every small change in their physical configuration influences its overall sonic response producing, in turn, infinite loops of small physical transformations. Feedback is a powerful yet wild sonic force and to keep it under control is a challenging activity.

Autophagy I

Vincent Daoud - baritone sax

Maarten Stragier - electric guitar

James Oesi - double bass

Tom De Cock - percussions


Andrea Mancianti - live electronics

In the praxes of contemporary music, when a composer is asked to write a piece by an ensemble, often, for reasons depending on cultural policy demands, “under-questioned” habits or simple convenience and economy, one tends to write something on the base of abstract assumptions, something for instance that would suit any ensemble with the same lineup, something that “would work” in different hypothetical spaces and contexts, or something that would run smoothly and be solid no matter what. Without necessarily disrespecting these wise precautions, I started feeling a bit less comfortable within this framework. It seems to me it relies mostly on preoccupations such as reproducibility, feasibility and efficiency, borrowed from an industry mindset, that favors a certain craftsmanship, but definitely reduces the margins to let the performance be something like a negotiation between “live” - and thus to a degree unpredictable - elements.



The technology involved is also marked by the same instability, and its global behavior is characterized by a clash between fully predetermined interventions coming into terms with a self modifying ecosystem, with feedback loops occurring between instruments and electronics, instrument and instrument and finally instrument and space.

Writing the piece is then more like setting up the conditions for its partly unexpected development, like an organism made of various interconnected parts feeding on its own elements.

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