Hyphos (2014) by John MacCallum
for alto flute, bass clarinet, viola, and electronics
World premiere; Earplay commission

Text means Tissue; but whereas hitherto we have always taken this tissue as a product, a ready-made veil, behind which lies, more or less hidden, meaning (truth), we are now emphasizing, in the tissue, the generative idea that the text is made, is worked out in a perpetual interweaving; lost in this tissue—this texture—the subject unmakes himself, like a spider dissolving in the constructive secretions of its web. Were we fond of neologisms, we might define the theory of the text as an hyphology (hyphos is the tissue and the spider’s web).
  — Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text

Hyphos is a texture, a textile, consisting of many threads of time woven together in a counterpoint of continuously fluctuating tempos. Although the musicians begin together, they quickly diverge from the tempo they share. This tempo, however, remains latent throughout the piece, becoming manifest for brief and fleeting moments when the threads of the different musical parts intertwine in just the right way to reveal its rhythms. The musicians may choose to use click-tracks to help them remain situated in time with respect to the other performers and computer, however, the piece may also be played without the aid of click-tracks. In the latter case, the way in which the various musical threads become entangled is, to a certain extent, variable and the resulting web gradually unmakes its creator.

This work makes use of new software developed by the composer at the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT) at UC Berkeley. This software builds on previous work by Matthew Wright as well as numerous others and has been used extensively in recent works by Edmund Campion including Auditory Fiction, Small Wonder, and The Last Internal Combustion Engine.

— J. MacC.    

[from program for May 19, 2014 concert]