Hyperion’s Explosive Compression, after Maderna

Juan Parra Cancino, Orpheus Institute, Ghent



The larger goal of this research project is to look at the performance practice of electroacoustic music through the mirror of traditional instrumental interpretation, and by a specialised performer rather than the composer himself. Specifically, to present a number of strategies to analyse, reconstruct, reinterpret and create electroacoustic music that is actively situated in an larger historical context and is either informed by or a rendering of pre-existing repertoire. In doing so, the positive aspects of the notions of “core repertoire”, so commonly used in traditional instrumental academic contexts[1], can be adapted and utilized by electronic music practitioners, in all three aspects of their practice: technical, compositional and performative.


It could be argued that in artistic research, with dealing with interpretation in traditional instrumental music, the goal is to expand beyond the notion of “core repertoire”, due to its excessive constrain on experimental practices (see De Assis, 2010). [1] When dealing with interpretation in electroacoustic music, the lack of these constrains is what we aim to explore as potential positive friction towards the development of creative strategies.



In my collaboration with the Theatre company Muta Imago, these notions of interpretation are activated by the needs, constrains and challenges of producing a new version of Bruno Maderna’s Hyperion, focusing in the double dramaturgical and dramaturgic-musical roles of the solo instruments, and the use of recordings of the orchestral parts as a sound object both contributing to the musical structure as well as providing a dramaturgical character: an aural representation of a different temporal and spatial plane, one that both sustains and collides with the “live” performers.


My role is to “handle these two different sound materials, the recorded tapes, and the live voices of the flute and the soprano, and try to put these two worlds in constant communication: the relationship between them will reflect the path of the man Hyperion, represented by a performer on stage who will pass through a series of experiments based on the confrontation between his body and the space around him, between a man and his dreams, his present and his dreamt future”.[2] 


In the process of creating the electronic processing system, selecting the orchestral recordings and reconstructing the final timeline for the work, both the dramaturgical needs, the logistic constrains, as well as my own considerations when approaching interpretation in live electronic music where equal contributors in the decision making, reflecting in the process of doing the work a similar journey to the one travelled by Hyperion, confronting the limits of interpretation understood from the roles of the composer, instrument builder and performer in electronic music today. 


                                                                    Juan Parra Cancino





[1] De Assis, Paulo. Beyond Urtext: A dynamic conception of musical editing. Orpheus Institute web publications, 2010. 



[2] Fazzi, Riccardo and Sorace, Claudia. Presentation of the project: Muta Imago - Bruno Maderna - Hyperion. 2015, p.3.

Structure of pieces /sections used for theatre version

Muta Imago's Presentation of the Project (click to open PDF)

From Dimensioni III, version 1962-63



From Dimensioni III, version 1962-63



From Hyperion, Venezia, 1964



second half (click on the image to watch video)

HYPERION is an original musical theater production of the Italian group Muta Imago and HERMESensemble, based on the novella by Friedrich Hölderlin and music by Bruno Maderna. HYPERION is about the contrast between nature and (industrial) culture, embodied by the main character which only plays flute (a reference to the pre-industrial, ancient Greek aulos) and an electronic score marked by mechanical sounds and noise.


Bruno Maderna’s motley amalgam of scores, releases and electronic media make it an almost impossible undertaking to reconstruct the work in its original form. However, it is beyond dispute that in Hölderlins texts, which take place against the background of the Greek struggle for independence, and in Maderna’s musical sketches an artistic opportunity is very touching in addition to current social events and developments.


HERMESensemble conducted research into a possible 21st century reconstruction of Maderna’s work, in collaboration with the American musicologist and composer Brent Wetters. After this preliminary work, Juan Parra Cancino realized a musical score based on the one hand, on Maderna’s written material and on the other the extensive material collected from various performances and tapes composed by Maderna himself.

HYPERION (theatre version)


Music by Bruno Maderna

Direction Claudia Sorace 

Musical dramaturgy and composition Riccardo Fazi 

Performer Jonathan Schatz 

Flute Karin de Fleyt

Soprano Valerie Vervoort, Hanne Roos

Musical arrangements and live electronics  Juan Parra Cancino

Assistant director and stage kinetics Chiara Caimmi

Technical director and video designer Maria Elena Fusacchia

Project advice Alessandro Taverna 

Ethic and aesthetic consultant Daniel Blanga 

Research consultant Brent Wetters 

Lights Roberto Cafaggini 

Costumes Jonne Sikkema 

Stage pictures Luigi Angelucci, Filip Van Roe 

Organisation Agnese Nepa

Production Sagra Musicale Malatestiana, RomaEuropa Festival, Muta Imago 2015

In collaboration with  Hermes Ensemble – Antwerp, Muziektheater Transparant – Antwerp, Kunstencentrum Vooruit – Gent, 

Orpheus Instituut – Gent, Santarcangelo International Festival

of the Arts 2015, AMAT Marche, L’Arboreto Teatro Dimora di Mondaino, Rialto Sant’Ambrogio, Carrozzerie N.O.T.- Roma

With the support of Mibact – Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali – Direzione Generale Spettacolo

Theatre version

first half (click on the image to watch video)

From Hyperion en het Geweld,

Brussels 1968


Archive material from Hyperion en het Geweld, Brussels 1968



From Hyperion en het Geweld,

Brussels 1968


The new acousmatic version of Maderna’s Hyperion documented in this release embraces Hyperion’s remarkable legacy as a work with no fixed form, which allows it to keep branching out into new possibilities, new intensities, and new musical renderings. In it, Parra Cancino also continues his exploration into processes of dismantling and replacing and into the incorporation of “time” in his transcription—an “explosive compression” that can itself constitute a musical object—in this case, a recording released as an LP.

The extreme dynamic range of the mix encourages listeners to adjust levels along the way, and, over time, the degradation of the medium will potentially render certain parts of the work inaudible. Furthermore, the use of locked grooves at the end of each side requires listeners to regulate time by acting on the object itself. The release also includes six new essays by participants and scholars that reveal the historical, artistic, and theoretical background to the music and the project.

Explosive Compressions (LP version)


Music by Bruno Maderna and Juan Parra Cancino

Flute | Karin de Fleyt

Soprano | Valerie Vervoort

Musical arrangements and electronics | Juan Parra Cancino

Recording and mixing | Juan Parra Cancino

Recording production | Luk Vaes

Mastering | Taylor Deupree (www.12kmastering.com)

Recorded between May and December 2016 at the Orpheus Institute, Ghent, Belgium

side A

side B

LP version

Listen to the recorded version (vinyl)

NOTE: In order to preserve the original proposition of using the constrains and unique features of the vinyl as the carrier for this work, the soundfiles presented here are digitised playbacks of the vinyl test pressings. To purchase a physical copy of the LP, visit the following link: https://orpheusinstitute.bandcamp.com/

Archive material from Hyperion en het Geweld, Brussels 1968




Suite frrom Hyperion,



Suite frrom Hyperion,