PhD defense Kevin Toksöz Fairbairn - Poiesis and the Performance Practice of Physically Polyphonic Notations

Academiegebouw, Rapenburg 73, Leiden

On June 11, 2020, trombonist Kevin Toksöz Fairbairn received his doctorate for his research “Poiesis and the Performance Practice of Physically Polyphonic Notations” at the University of Leiden.

11 juni 2020 (13u45)
Academiegebouw, Rapenburg 73, Leiden

On June 11, trombonist Kevin Toksöz Fairbairn will receive his doctorate for his research “Poiesis and the Performance Practice of Physically Polyphonic Notations.” He has conducted this research in recent years through the docARTES program.

Marcel Cobussen
Richard Barrett
both affiliated with Leiden University at the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts (ACPA), the research institute for artistic research.


Poiesis and the Performance Practice of Physically Polyphonic Notations

Kevin Toksöz Fairbairn performs contemporary repertoire distinguished by physically decoupled notations or physical polyphonic notations, a unique and relatively recent trend in musical notation that notates physical actions instead of just notes.
Many of these extremely complex notations unintentionally form a barrier for both listeners and even most trained musicians. This form of polyphonic notation entails almost impossible physical demands layered one on top of the other. This requires the musician to execute seemingly incongruous physical actions all together, which requires alternative ways of studying and performing, little of which has been previously studied or written about. Kevin looks for ways to unravel these compositions and notations. In his opinion, complexity and ingenuity should be celebrated. Practicing and performing such a composition should be a creative process in which the body can and often has to take the lead.
His research revolves around the philosophical and linguistic elements that naturally belong to the process of learning music scores, including these complex ones. He characterizes these processes as poiesis, after the concept described by philosopher Hannah Arendt in her Vita Activa (The Human Condition, 1958).
Vita Activa (active life) is Arendt's analysis of society through the lens of activities and social relationships. She identifies activity as the primary motivation of creativity, among other things. Kevin sees a parallel in music and performance practice, examining the way a study of physical activity can inform interpretation instead of textual analysis.
With this philosophical background, among other things, he tackles physical polyphony. He uses it as a means to experiment with the performance practice and with the ways in which that practice develops and transforms into new situations. Throughout the years, little attention has been paid to what these notation techniques mean for musicians and their individual instrumental practice. By relating the role of these notation techniques to the performing body, he hopes to provide more insight into the performance practice of contemporary music, not to mention the learning process of music in general.Kevin Toksöz Fairbairn

Kevin Toksöz Fairbairn performs regularly throughout central Europe and the eastern United States, and specializes in the performance, improvisation, and composition of experimental music. His commitment to exploring sound has led to many unique projects both within notated music and beyond.
Since 2013, he has performed regularly with Klangforum Wien, with whom he has appeared as a soloist numerous times, and Collegium Novum Zürich, of which he is a member. He collaborates frequently with young and emerging composers, and advocates extensively to develop new and experimental chamber music for the trombone. His duos with long-standing musical allies João Carlos Pacheco (Blechtrommel) and Coleman Goepfert (Winston/Goepfert Duo) have served as principal laboratories for these engagements.
Kevin also maintains an active practice as a researcher, academic, and teacher. With respect to his work on experimental notations that explore the physical entanglements of music-making, he has given masterclasses and guest artist recitals at universities in America, Europe, and Asia.
He is also an accomplished brass instrument maker, following a long apprenticeship with master craftsman George McCracken. He performs on trombones and other instruments of his own design and construction.

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