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.
Toksoz Fairbairn photo credit Anna Lischka

Kevin Toksöz Fairbairn

Keywords: trombone
Duration: 2016-2020
Period: 20th century music, 21st century music
Musician type: wind
Host institution: Leiden University

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.

Marcel Cobussen and Richard Barrett