Online Thesis/Dissertation Repository

Psappha by Iannis Xenakis: Developing Multiple Percussion Literacy
by Owen Phillip Rockwell
University of Southern Mississippi
May 2015


Psappha by Iannis Xenakis was written for a solo percussionist in 1975, and since then has been performed almost exclusively by elite musicians. The work suffers from broad neglect by students and professionals alike, because the structure and notation are difficult to access. Through Psappha, Xenakis created an alternative approach to serialist and chance compositional techniques that enabled him to communicate what he believed was rhythm in its purest form. The notation is unconventional and challenges the performer to approach Psappha in a similar manner. The main thrust of this project was to re-imagine the work in a more traditional notation system, making it accessible to a new generation of performers.

Understanding the difficulties and breaking them down in a systematic way empowers the performer to approach the work with confidence that the wealth of musical information contained is successfully conveyed to an audience. Also, by partitioning Psappha into 16 sections, presented as etudes of progressive difficulty, the work is useful for the development of basic multiple percussion technique. The skills acquired by learning the material of Psappha are ones needed to perform the subsequent repertoire for solo multiple percussion.

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