The Poly-Work as a Compositional Strategy in my Music Works 2017–21

  • Hakan Ulus

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This PhD portfolio consists of 11 interconnected compositions, plus one work in
progress, which are grouped in four cycles that come together to form one meta-polywork. That portfolio is accompanied by the following contextual commentary that outlines three particularly significant and distinctive attributes of my compositional approach during this extended period of artistic research: firstly, an original approach to the polywork as a holistic compositional strategy, expanding its traditional definition by incorporating an additional cyclical layer, unfolding hidden potential, and further developing a grammar of the poly-work in the context of work cycles; secondly, demonstrating the implications of the poly-work strategy on the micro-structural level, showing how I generate new material through existing material in a process resembling harmonisation in common practice repertoire; and finally, an insight into my approach to
instrumental performance techniques, in which I developed and refined several tuning fork techniques inside the piano, as well as particular inhalation techniques for clarinet and saxophone.
Scrutinising my music and other composers’ works, I established a poly-work
grammar that introduces a five-function approach to a recontextualised work. Besides the two standard functions necessary to fulfil the criteria for being a poly-work—as a standalone piece and embedded within another piece—functions within the cycles, the cycles’ interconnectedness, and the final additional layering of the meta-poly-work are added.
In the harmonisation process, the embedded work’s material functions as a rich
source of creating new material through existing material. I have developed transferable models with different degrees of complexity that can be applied in various compositional contexts. Using techniques of suspension, anticipation, delay, and distortion, rich structural layers are created.
Finally, I investigate the production and musical potential of tuning fork techniques and inhalation sounds on the clarinet and saxophone within the context of how these materials can be seen to be contributing to the mapping of the larger poly-work in both compositional form and conceptual strategy—tracing the interpretational challenges deeply embedded within my music where unreachable failure is a genuine artistic category. This aspiration forms an inherent and fundamental part of my approach to the compositional process.
Date of Award11 Nov 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAaron Cassidy (Main Supervisor) & Mary Bellamy (Co-Supervisor)

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