At first, I wasn’t sure about the title of this piece, but gradually I’ve warmed to its present name. Tetrax is one of the six Ephesia grammata (Ephesian words) used beginning around the 4th or 5th centuries B.C.E. in Greece. They had no meaning in and of themselves but were thought to contain great power if recited properly, or if worn around the neck as an amulet. Their use continued sporadically, even into the early centuries of the common era in Graeco-Roman magical practice, attesting to the potency accorded to them.
Of the original six words, I chose tetrax for its obvious associations with the number four, and also as a subtle nod to the composer Iannis Xenakis, whose string quartet Tetras and saxophone quartet XAS were cursory influences on the present piece. I also chose this word as an appropriate analog to the piece, which was constructed as pure abstract music with no extra-musical associations like many of my other works possess. It has no specific meaning or program, and yet (I hope) it has some sort of inscrutable power, as I think much music does.