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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


  Composer Profiles

James Tenney

James Tenney James Tenney
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James Tenney

Interview for RealAudio 5 comments by the composer, 3:44. In RA 14.4.
Music for RealAudio 3 stereo version of Harmonium #5 6:47 / 989K.
Music for RealAudio 3 mono version of Harmonium #5 6:47 / 788K.
Music for RealAudio 2 mono version of Harmonium #5 6:47 / 395K.


James Tenney was born in 1934 in Silver City, New Mexico, and grew up in Arizona and Colorado, where he received his early training as a pianist and composer. He attended the University of Denver, the Juilliard School of Music, Bennington College (B.A. 1958) and the University of Illinois (M.A. 1961). His teachers have included Eduard Steuermann, Chou Wen-Chung, Lionel Nowak, Carl Ruggles, Lejaren Hiller, Kenneth Gaburo, and Edgard Varèse. A performer as well as a composer and theorist, he was co-founder and conductor of the Tone Roads Chamber Ensemble in New York City (1963-70). He has long been active in the field of electronic and computer music, working with Max Mathews and others at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in the early 1960s to develop programs for computer sound-generation and composition. He has written works for a variety of media, both instrumental and electronic, many of them using alternative tuning systems. He is the author of numerous articles on musical acoustics, computer music, musical form and perception, and two books: META + HODOS: A Phenomenology of 20th-Century Musical Materialsand an Approach to the Study of Form (1961; Frog Peak, 1988) and A History of 'Consonance' and 'Dissonance' (Excelsior, 1988). He has received grants and awards from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the Canada Council, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Fromm Foundation, the DAAD (Germany) and the Jean A. Chalmers Award for his work Critical Band. He has taught at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, California Institute of the Arts, and the University of California, and is currently Professor of Music at York University in Toronto, where he was recently named Distinguished Research Professor, the first in the history of the university from the Faculty of Fine Arts. His music is published by Sonic Art Editions (Baltimore) and the Canadian Music Centre, and distributed by them and by Frog Peak (Lebanon, NH); recordings are available from Aerial, Artifact, CRI, Ear, Frog Peak, Hat Hut, Mode, Musicworks, Tellus, Toshiba EMI, and ¿What Next?.

(bio: Lauren Pratt)

James Tenney

selected works

note: the following list was compiled by Lauren Pratt

Unless otherwise noted, copyright is held on works by: Sonic Art Editions Smith Publications 2617 Gwynndale Ave. Baltimore, MD 21207 410-298-6509, 410-944-5113 fax All rights reserved. Distributor.

Distributor of works indicated 'Copyright JT [James Tenney]': Frog Peak Music Box 1052 Lebanon, NH 03766 603-448-8837 +fax frogpeak@sover.net

[R: label and number] = work recorded on this issue [T] = performance tape available

Song'n'Dance for Harry Partch. Diamond Marimba, Adapted Viola, strings, and percussion; (1999); 15'. Commissioned by Donaueschinger Musiktage with the assistance of Betty Freeman. Copyright JT. [T]

Diaphonic Trio. Violin and piano; (1997); 15'. Commissioned by the Sabat/Clarke Duo with the assistance of the Ontario Arts Council. Copyright JT. [T]

Diaphonic Study. String quartet and piano; (1997); 18'. Comissioned by the musikprotokoll Festival for the Tetras Quartet with Hildegarde Kleeb. Copyright JT. [T]

'Scend for Scelsi. Flute, oboe, clarinet, alto saxophone, trumpet, 2 French horn, 2 trombone, 2 viola, 2 'cello, contrabass; (1996); 16'30. Commissioned by WDR;Neue Musik Köln for Klangforum Wien. Copyright JT. [T]

Diapason. 2 flute/bass flute, 2 oboe/English horn, 2 clarinet/bass clarinet, 2 bassoon/contrabassoon, 2 trumpet, 2 French horn, trombone, 16 violin, 6 viola, 4 Õcello, 2 contrabass; (1996); 15'. Commissioned by Südwestfunk for the Donaueschingen Musiktage 1996. Copyright JT. [T]

Spectrum 5. flute, oboe, bass clarinet, bassoon, vibraphone et al., harp, piano, viola; (1995); 16'. Written for Champ d'Action. Copyright JT. [T] Spectrum 4. Violin, alto recorder, vibraphone, guitar, piano, bass clarinet, tenor-bass trombone, contrabass; (1995); 16'. Written for the Maarten Altena Ensemble. Copyright JT. [T]

Three Pages in the Shape of a Pear. Piano; (1995); 3'. Written for Evenings of New Music, Bratislava. Copyright JT. [T]

Sneezles. Soprano, flute or alto recorder, clarinet, vibraphone, violin, guitar, tenor-bass trombone, contrabass; (1995); 3'. Copyright JT.

Spectrum 3. Chamber orchestra (20); (1995); 18'. Commissioned by Hessischer Rundfunk for Ensemble Modern. Copyright JT. [T]

Spectrum 2. Wind quintet; (1995); 15'. Commissioned by Fifth Species with the assistance of the Canada Council. Copyright JT. [T]

Spectrum 1. Violin, trumpet, bass clarinet, 2 percussion, piano, contrabass; (1995); 15'. Commissioned by Arraymusic with the assistance of the Ontario Arts Council. Copyright JT. [T]

In a large, reverberant space. Variable instrumentation, 12 or more instruments; (1995); indeterminate length. Copyright JT. [T]

Tempest II. Mechanical drum; (1994); 3'. Written for Stephan von Huene's mechanical drum. Copyright JT.

In a large, open space. Variable instrumentation, 12 or more instruments; (1994); indeterminate length. Written for the Krems Minoritenkirche. Copyright JT.

Ergodos III. 2 pianos; (1994); 24'. For John Cage. Commissioned by Südwestfunk Radio for the Donaueschingen Musiktage. Copyright JT. [T]

Cognate Canons. String quartet and percussion; (1993); 24'. For Conlon Nancarrow. Commissioned by the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst for the Arditti Quartet and Robyn Schulkowsky. Copyright JT. [T]

Flocking. 2 quarter-tone pianos; (1993); 13'. Copyright JT. [R: Gertrud Schneider, Tomas Bächli, Manfred Werder, and Erika Rademacher, hat ART CD 6193; T]

Form 5. Electronic; (1993); 6'. Commissioned by the Swiss Musician's Association Festival of Contemporary Swiss Music. Copyright JT. [T]

Form 1. Variable ensemble (at least 16 players: woodwinds, brass, strings, and pitched percussion) (1993); 19'. For Edgard Varèse. Copyright JT. [T]

Form 2. Variable ensemble (at least 16 players: woodwinds, brass, strings, and pitched percussion) (1993); 17'. For John Cage. Copyright JT. [T]

Form 3. Variable ensemble (at least 16 players: woodwinds, brass, strings, and pitched percussion) (1993); 14'. For Stefan Wolpe. Commissioned by the Stefan Wolpe Society and New Music Concerts with the assistance of the Canada Council. Copyright JT. [T]

Form 4. Variable ensemble (at least 16 players: woodwinds, brass, strings, and pitched percussion) (1993); 16'. For Morton Feldman. Copyright JT.

Love Me Do and Do You Want to Know a Secret. (Lennon/McCartney), arranged for piano (1992); 3' and 3'. Commissioned by Toshiba EMI for Aki Takahashi. Copyright JT. [R: Aki Takahashi, ÒLet It BeÓ, Toshiba EMI CD TOCE-8021]

Ain't I a Woman? 2 violins, 2 violas, 3 cellos, celesta (1992); 20'. Text by Sojourner Truth. Commissioned by Productions TraquenÕart/International Cello Festival for Frances-Marie Uitti with the assistance of the Canada Council. Copyright JT. [T]

Spectral CANON for CONLON Nancarrow (Extended). Player piano (1991); 5'25". Copyright JT. [T]

Pika-Don. Percussion quartet and pre-recorded 4-channel tape (1991); 21'. Commissioned by the Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe, for Chris Shultis and the U. of New Mexico Percussion Ensemble with the assistance of the Ford Foundation. Copyright JT. [T]

Three New Seeds. Clarinet/bass clarinet, trumpet, contrabass, piano, 2 percussion (1991); 3'. Commissioned by ARRAYMUSIC for 20th Anniversary Concert performance. Copyright JT. [R: Arraymusic, 'New World', Artifact CD ART-006; 'Here and Now: A Celebration of Canadian Music', Canada Council/Sony Music Special Projects CDSP 4510, T]

Tableaux Vivants. Violin, clarinet/bass clarinet, bassoon, soprano saxophone/baritone saxophone, piano, vibraphone (1990); 20'. Commissioned by Montréal Musiques Actuelles/New Music America 1990 for Sound Pressure with the assistance of the Canada Council. Copyright JT. [R: Sound Pressure, 'Pressure Points', Soundprints CD SP9301; T]

Critical Band. Variable ensemble (1988); 18'. Commissioned by Relâche, the Ensemble for Contemporary Music and New Music America-Miami 1988 with the assistance of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Copyright JT. [R: Relâche, 'On Edge', Mode CD 22; T]

Rune. Percussion quintet (1988); 20'. For Lauren Pratt. Commissioned by the Nexus Ensemble with the assistance of the Canada Council. Copyright JT. [T]

The Road to Ubud. Gamelan and prepared piano (1986); 20'. In memory of Ann Holloway. Commissioned by the Evergreen Club Gamelan Ensemble with the assistance of the Ontario Arts Council. Copyright JT. [T]

'Water on the Mountain . . . Fire in Heaven'. 6 electric guitars (1985); 25'. [R: Seth Josel, ÒLong DistanceÓ, CRI CD 697; T]

Changes: 64 Studies for 6 Harps (1985); 35'. For Udo Kasemets. [T]

Koan. String quartet (1984); 25'. From Music Foundation commission for the Kronos Quartet. [R: Modern String Quartet, Musicworks 64 CD]

Bridge. 2 microtonal pianos, 8 hands, in a microtonal tuning system (1984); 45'. [R: Gertrud Schneider, Tomas Bächli, Manfred Werder, and Erika Rademacher, hat ART CD 6193; Musicworks 27 cass.; T]

deus ex machina. Tam-tam player, tape-delay system, technician, and unwary audience (1982); variable duration.

Voice(s). Female voice(s) with optional and variable instrumental ensemble and multiple tape-delay system (1982/83); 24'. Commissioned by the New Music Cooperative with the assistance of the Ontario Arts Council. [R: Musicworks 27 cass.]

Glissade. Vla, vcl and cbs with tape delay system (1982); 35'. Commissioned by the Array Ensemble with the assistance of the Ontario Arts Council. [T]

Septet. 6 electric guitars and bass (1981); 5'30". [R: Mills College Contemporary Ensemble,Tellus cass. 14; T]

'Listen . . . !'. 3 sopranos and piano (1981/84); 5'. [T] Chromatic Canon. 2 pianos (1980/83); 10'. For Steve Reich. [R: Double Edge (Edmund Niemann and Nurit Tilles) on 'U.S. Choice', CRI Emergency Music CD 637; T]

Harmonium #3. 3 harps (1978/80); 15'.

Three Indigenous Songs. 2 picc, alto fl, tuba or bsn, 2 perc (1979); 15'. For Lionel Nowak. Commissioned by New Music Concerts with the assistance of the Ontario Arts Council. [R: Musicworks 27 cass.; T]

Harmonium #5. String trio (1978); 6'. For John Cage. Commissioned by the Array Ensemble with the assistance of the Ontario Arts Council. [R: Arraymusic, 'Strange City', Artifact cass. and CD 002; Ear CD 1]

Saxony. 1 or more saxophone players and tape-delay system (1978); 25'. Commissioned by Don MacMillan with the assistance of the Ontario Arts Council. [R: Henrik Frisk, 'Inventions of Solitude', Hornblower CD HR 96101; David Mott, CRI LP SD 528]

Harmonium #4. 10 instruments and tape-delay system (1978); 12'.

Harmonium #1. Variable ensemble (1975/76); variable duration.

Three Pieces for Drum Quartet: Wake for Charles Ives, 4 tenor drums; Hocket for Henry Cowell, 4 bass drums; Crystal Canon for Edgard Varèse, 4 snare drums, (1974/75); 15'. Copyright JT. [T]

Spectral CANON for CONLON Nancarrow. Player piano (1974); 4'. [R: 'Donaueschinger Musiktage 1994', col legno WWE 3CD 31882; Cold Blue LP L-10 (o. p.); T]

Chorales for Orchestra. (1974); 12'. For Ann Holloway. [T]

Three Harmonic Studies. Orchestra (1974); 10'.

Canon. Contrabass quartet (1973); 6'.

In the Aeolian Mode. Prepared piano and variable ensemble (1973); variable duration. [T]

Quintext I-V: Five Textures for String Quartet and Bass: Some Recent Thoughts for Morton Feldman, Clouds for Iannis Xenakis, A Choir of Angels for Carl Ruggles, Parabolas and Hyperbolas for Edgard Varèse, Spectra for Harry Partch (1972); 30'. [T]

Clang. Orchestra (1972); 12'. [T]

For 12 Strings (rising). (1971); variable duration.

'Hey When I Sing These 4 Songs Hey Look What Happens'. SATB (1971); 3'. Text tr. from the Iroquois by Jerome Rothenberg. [R: Bennington cass. SC5-003]

Postal Pieces. (1965-1971)

1. Beast. String bass (1971); 7'. For Buell Neidlinger.
2. A Rose Is A Rose Is A Round. Voices (1970); variable duration.
3. (night). 'For percussion perhaps, or . . . ' (1971); variable duration. For Harold Budd.
4. Koan. Solo violin (1971); 10'. [R: Malcolm Goldstein, on 'Sounding the New Violin', ¿What Next? WN0005 CD and cass.]
5. Maximusic. Verbal score for percussionist (1965); variable duration. For Max Neuhaus.
6. Swell Piece #1. Verbal score for any number of sustained-tone instruments (1967); variable duration.
7a. Swell Piece #2. Verbal score (1971); variable duration.
7b. Swell Piece #3. Verbal score (1971); variable duration.
8. August Harp. Solo harp (1971); 20'. For Susan Allen.
9. Cellogram. Solo cello (1971); 7'. For Joel Krosnick.
10. Having Never Written a Note for Percussion. Solo percussionist (1971); variable duration. For John Bergamo.

Quiet Fan for Erik Satie. Flute, alto flute, oboe, English horn, 2 Bb clarinets, bass clarinet, bassoon, trombone, violin, viola, 'cello, bass (or chamber orchestra) (1970/71); 17'. [R: Musicworks 27 cass.; T]

Three Rags for Pianoforte: Raggedy Ann, Milk and Honey, Tangled Rag (1969); 13'. Copyright JT. [R: Nurit Tilles on 'Ragtime Here and Now', The Jazz Piano Heritage Series, Vol. 37, Jazzology JCE 87; T] Tangled Rag. String version. Milk and Honey. Arr. for mandolin(s), mandola(s), mandocello(i)

For Ann (rising). Electronic (1969); 11'. [R: Artifact 1007/Frog Peak 001 CD, Musicworks 27 cass.; Ear 3 CD; T]

Fabric for Ché. Computer music (1967); 11'. [R: Artifact 1007/Frog Peak 001 CD; T]

Collage #2 'Viet Flakes'. Concrete music for the film by Carolee Schneemann (1966); 10'. [R: Musicworks 56 'Sound / Image' CD; T]

Choreogram. Verbal score for any number of musicians performing with dancers (1964); variable duration.

Ergodos II. Computer music (1964); 18'. For John Cage. [R: Artifact 1007/Frog Peak 001 CD; T]

Instrumental Responses (with Ergodos I or II). (1964); 18'. [T]

String Complement (with Ergodos I or II). Bowed-string instruments (1964); 12'.

Piano/Percussion Complement (with Ergodos I or II). (1964); variable duration.

Music for Player-Piano. (1964); 6'15". [R: Artifact 1007/Frog Peak 001 CD; [T]

Ergodos I. Computer music (1963); 12'. For John Cage. [Ergodos I1, on 'A Chance OperationÑTribute to John Cage', Koch International Classics CD 3-7238-2 Y6x2; T]

Phases. Computer music (1963); 12'. For Edgard Varèse. [R: Musicworks 27 cass.; Artifact 1007/Frog Peak 001 CD; T]

Dialogue. Computer music (1963); 4'. [R: Artifact 1007/Frog Peak 001 CD]

Stochastic (String) Quartet. (1963); 3'. [R: Decca LP (o. p. )]

Entrance/Exit Music. Computer music (1962); 10'. In collaboration with George Brecht. [R: Tellus 24 cass.]

Analog #1: Noise Study. Computer music (1961); 5'. [R: Artifact 1007/Frog Peak 001 CD; 'Music from Mathematics', Decca LP DL 9103 (o. p. ); T]

Collage #1 ('Blue Suede'). Electronic (1961); 4'. [R: Musicworks 34 cass.; Artifact 1007/Frog Peak 001 CD; T]

Monody. Solo clarinet (1959); 4'. [T]

Sonata for Ten Wind Instruments. (1958/1983); 5'.

'Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird'. Rev. for bass voice, ob, alto fl, vla, vcl, cbs (1971); 6'. Tenor voice, 2 fl, vln, vla, vcl, (1958); 6'. Text by Wallace Stevens.

Seeds I-VI. Fl, cl, bsn, Fr hn, vln, vcl (1956/61); 7'. [T]

Interim. Piano (1952); 22'. For the film of that title by Stan Brakhage.



Compositions 1961-1969 Compositions 1961-1969 ... On this disc: For Ann (Rising) Kalvos's Top 100 and Damian's Top 100
The Solo Works for Percussion The Solo Works for Percussion
Music for Violin & Piano Music for Violin & Piano

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