James Tenney

From Academic Kids

James Tenney (August 10, 1934 in Silver City, NM) is an American composer and influential music theorist. He studied piano with Eduard Steuermann and composition with Chou Wen-chung, Lionel Nowak, Paul Boepple, Henry Brant, Carl Ruggles, Kenneth Gaburo, Lejaren Hiller, and Edgard Varése. His students include John Luther Adams. He also studied information theory under Lejaren Hiller, and composed stochastic early computer music before turning almost completely to writing for instruments with the occasional tape delay, often using just intonation and alternative tunings. His work deals simply and artfully with perception (For Ann (rising), see Shepard tone), just intonation (Clang, see gestalt), stochastic elements (Music for Player Piano), information theory (Ergodos, see Ergodic theory), and with what he calls 'swell' (Koan: Having Never Written A Note For Percussion (for John Bergamo)), which is basically arch form. His pieces are most often tributes and subtitled as such. As his friend Philip Corner says, For Ann (rising), "must be optimistic! (Imagine the depressing effectiveness of it -- he could never be so cruel -- downward)..."

Tenney is the author of the in depth liner notes to Wergo's edition of Conlon Nancarrow's Studies for Player Piano (Nancarrow, as a favor, punched the roll for Tenney's Spectral Canon for Conlon Nancarrow), the seminal Meta (+) Hodos (one of, if not the, earliest applications of gestalt theory and cognitive science to music), the later Hierarchical temporal gestalt perception in music : a metric space model with Larry Polansky, and other works. He currently teaches at the California Institute of Arts.

Further reading

  • Garland, Peter (Ed.) (1984). Soundings Vol. 13: The Music of James Tenney. Santa Fe, N.M. : Soundings Press.
  • Tenney, James (1988) (Meta-Hodos and Meta Meta-Hodos: A Phenomenology of 20th Century Musical Materials and an Approach to the Study of Form. Santa Fe, N.M.: Frog Peak Music. ISBN 0945996004.

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