Three Flavors of Post-Instrumentalities The Musical Practices of, and a Many-Festo by Trio Brachiale

Dominik Hildebrand Marques Lopes, Hannes Hoelzl and Alberto de Campo

Abstract This article offers a shared account of one out of a pluriverse of possible musics in the 21st century, with three personal perspectives. It is written by a trio of musicians/artists/researchers, who have been co-inventing an idiosyncratic style of music, including its instruments, compositional strategies, and performance systems. We articulate our artistic aims in a many-festo, discuss the background that informs our thinking, give examples of related artistic instrument design, and explain aspects of our own work that exemplify our essential insights and resulting tenets.


Trio Brachiale exists since 2010, when Dominik Hildebrand Marques Lopes, Hannes Hoelzl and Alberto de Campo first played together as a group at an evening with the Society for Nontrivial Pursuits in Berlin. We share much common ground, being performers, composers, coders, luthiers; and we are all inspired by second order cybernetics (von Foerster), observation of processes with nontrivial behavior, the possibilities arising from working with code, and the roles medieval and baroque combinatorics (A. Kircher, R. Llull) play for modern media-technological society (S. Zielinski). This makes the group an ideal platform for experimenting

D. Hildebrand Marques Lopes (H) • H. Hoelzl • A. de Campo UdK Berlin, Grunewaldstr 2-5, 10823 Berlin, Germany e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

T. Bovermann et al. (eds.), Musical Instruments in the 21st Century, DOI 10.1007/978-981-10-2951-6_22

with ideas about musical practices for which we share intuitive understanding. The music we make is a dense, high energy flow of improvised structures, reminiscent of free jazz improvisation, but deploying purely electronic sound sources. The trio constantly strives to extend this vocabulary by creating processes in electronics and computers, and learning to become fully aware of their immense flexibility and possibility spaces.

It is common knowledge today that the combinatorial power of modern equipment, open source software and shared technical knowledge has led to an amalgamation of the formerly separate fields of instrument building, composition, live music performance, recording and mixing into one unified musical practice. Many of the more preparatory tasks involved can now be made accessible in realtime, and thus can be played with in a live setting. This obviously changes received notions of instrumentality.

When working with processes with some degree of autonomy, a musician’s decisions affect more than just the next musical moment—actions may have consequences across multiple time scales (cf. Roads 2001: pp. 1-42). Thus developing processes, activating them, observing them and influencing their behavior becomes a central part of live performance practice. Delegating the details of musical tasks to complex algorithmic machinery frees the musician(s) to invent nontrivial ways of influencing these processes, which can then be shared among the musicians and machines of the ensemble. We consider such systems instances of MetaControl.

This article begins with a many-festo[1] declaring our artistic aims. Then we discuss the conceptual background that informs our activities: Cybernetic thinking and its relation to music; the notion of possibility spaces and evolving technology; the roles of decision making on different time scales; and the ways limitations and constraints open up new possibilities and close others. All of these inform a central concept we propose, Second Order Virtuosity, which we expand upon by giving examples of artistic instrument design in this spirit, and by discussing aspects of our own work to exemplify our essential tenets.

  • [1] The many-festo exists in many animated versions; for some net-based ones, see: Trio Brachiale(2016).
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