T he Living Composers Project  

Tenney, James (b. August 10, 1934, Silver City, New Mexico – d. August 24, 2006, Valencia, California). Canadian-American composer of stage, orchestral, chamber, choral, vocal, piano, and electroacoustic works that have been performed throughout the world; he is also active as a scholar.

Prof. Tenney received his early training as a composer and studied engineering at the University of Denver from 1952–54 and piano with Eduard Steuermann at the Juilliard School of Music in 1954–55. He then studied conducting with Paul Boepple and Henry Brant and composition with Lionel Nowak at Bennington College from 1956–58, where he earned his BA, and studied composition with Kenneth Gaburo and electronic music with Lejaren Hiller at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1959–61 and there he earned his MA. He also studied composition privately with John Cage, Chou Wen-chung, Carl Ruggles, and Edgard Varèse. He later received an honorary doctorate from the Dartington College of the Arts in 2000.

He has received awards and grants from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Fromm Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Science Foundation, and the Ontario Arts Council.

As a scholar, he has long been active in the fields of computer music and electronic music and worked to develop programs for computer sound-generation and composition with Max V. Mathews and other researchers at the Bell Telephone Laboratories from 1961–64. He is the author of numerous articles on computer music, musical acoustics, musical form, and perception, and the books META/HODOS: A Phenomenology of 20th-Century Musical Materials and an Approach to the Study of Form (1961) and META Meta/Hodos (1975; both were published together by Frog Peak Music, 1988). He also wrote the text A History of 'Consonance' and 'Dissonance' (1988, Excelsior Music Publishing Company).

Prof. Tenney is also active in other positions. He co-founded with Philip Corner and Malcolm Goldstein the new-music group Tone Roads Chamber Ensemble in New York City in 1963 and served as its pianist and occasional conductor from 1963–70. In addition, he performed with the ensembles of John Cage, Philip Glass, Harry Partch, and Steve Reich.

He taught electrical engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn from 1966–70 and musical subjects at the California Institute of the Arts from 1970–75 and the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1975–76. He then taught composition at York University in Toronto from 1976–2000, where he was Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus from 2000–06. He taught as the Roy E. Disney Family Chair in Music Composition at the California Institute of the Arts from 2000–06.

Smith Publications publishes most of his music written between 1956–87 and works from 1987–2006 are published by Frog Peak Music.


E-mail address for consulting scores: fp@frogpeak.org


STAGE: Choreogram, dancers, any number of players, 1964; deus ex machina, tam-tam, tape delay system (with technician), unwary audience, 1982

ORCHESTRAL: Quiet Fan for Érik Satie, small orchestra (13 players), 1970–71; For 12 Strings (rising), 1971; Clang, 1972; Three Harmonic Studies, 1974; Chorales, 1974; Tangled Rag, string orchestra, 1978 (version of no. 3 from Three Rags); The Road to Ubud, prepared piano, gamelan, 1986; Forms 14, variable orchestra (16 or more players), 1993 (each of its sections may be performed separately); In a large, open space, variable orchestra (12 or more players), 1994; In a large, reverberant space, variable orchestra (12 or more players), 1995; Spectrum 3, small orchestra (20 players), 1995; Diapason<, 1996; 'Scend for Scelsi, small orchestra (14 players), 1996; Song'n'Dance for Harry Partch, adapted viola (instrument by Harry Partch), diamond marimba (instrument by Harry Partch), small orchestra (percussion, strings), 1999; Last Spring in Toronto, gamelan, orchestra, 2000

CHAMBER MUSIC: Seeds IVI, flute, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, violin, cello, 1956, revised 1961; Sonata, piccolo, flute, oboe, clarinet, alto saxophone, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, 1958, revised 1983; Just a Bagatelle, viola, 1959, revised 1999; Monody, clarinet, 1959; Stochastic String Quartet, 1963; Instrumental Response, any wind instrument/any brass instrument/any bowed string instrument/piano/percussion, tape (Ergodos I or Ergodos II), 1964; Postal Piece No. 5: Maximusic, percussion, 1965; Postal Piece No. 6: Swell Piece No. 1, any number of sustained-tone instruments, 1967; Postal Piece No. 1: Beast, double bass, 1971; Postal Piece No. 3: (night), percussion, 1971; Postal Piece No. 4: Koan, violin, 1971; Postal Piece No. 7a: Swell Piece No. 2, any player, 1971; Postal Piece No. 7b: Swell Piece No. 3, any player, 1971; Postal Piece No. 8: August Harp, harp, 1971; Postal Piece No. 9: Cellogram, cello, 1971; Postal Piece No. 10: Having Never Written a Note for Percussion, percussion, 1971; Quintext IV: Five Textures, string quartet, double bass, 1972; In the Aeolian Mode, prepared piano, variable ensemble, 1973; Canon, 4 double basses, 1973; Chorale, violin, piano, 1974, revised 1998; Three Pieces for Mechanical Drum, 1974; Three Pieces for Drum Quartet, 4 percussion, 1974–75; Harmonium No. 1, variable ensemble, 1975–76; Harmonium No. 2, variable ensemble, 1975–76; Harmonium No. 3, 3 harps, 1978, revised 1980; Harmonium No. 4, 10 players, tape delay system, 1978; Harmonium No. 5, violin, viola, cello, 1978; Saxony, 1 or more saxophones, tape delay system, 1978; Three Indigenous Songs, 2 piccolos, alto flute, bassoon/tuba, 2 percussion, 1979; Septet, 6 electric guitars, bass guitar, 1981, revised 2000; Glissade, viola, cello, double bass, tape delay system, 1982; Milk and Honey, any number of mandolins, any number of mandolas, any number of mandocelli, 1983 (version of no. 2 from Three Rags); Koan, string quartet, 1984; Changes: 64 Studies, 6 harps, 1985; 'Water on the Mountain...Fire in Heaven', 6 electric guitars, 1985

CHAMBER MUSIC: Rune, 5 percussion, 1988; Critical Band, 10 or more sustained-tone instruments, 1988, revised 2000; Tableaux Vivants, clarinet (+ bass clarinet), soprano saxophone (+ baritone saxophone), bassoon, violin, piano, vibraphone, 1990; Pika-Don, 4 percussion, 4-track tape, 1991; Three New Seeds, clarinet (+ bass clarinet), trumpet, double bass, piano, 2 percussion, 1991; Cognate Canons, percussion, string quartet, 1993; Tempest II, mechanical drum, 1994; Spectrum 1, bass clarinet, trumpet, violin, double bass, piano, 2 percussion, 1995; Spectrum 2, flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn, bassoon, 1995; Spectrum 4, alto recorder, bass clarinet, tenor-bass trombone, electric guitar, violin, double bass, piano, vibraphone, 1995; Spectrum 5, flute, oboe, bass clarinet, bassoon, harp, viola, piano, percussion, 1995; Diaphonic Study, piano, string quartet, 1997; Diaphonic Toccata, violin, piano, 1997; Diaphonic Trio, violin, piano, 1997; Seegersong No. 1, clarinet, 1999; Seegersong No. 2, flute/alto flute, 1999; Harmonium No. 7, any 8 or more sustained-tone instruments, 2000; Spectrum 6, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, percussion, 2001; Spectrum 7, flute, cello, piano, tape delay system, 2001; Spectrum 8, viola, ensemble (flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, percussion), 2001; (Fontana) Mix for Six (Strings), 2 violins, 3 violas, cello, tape delay system ad libitum, 2001

CHORAL: Postal Piece No. 2: A Rose is a Rose is a Round, mixed chorus, 1970; 'Hey when I sing these 4 songs hey look what happens' (text from an Iroquois source [translated by Jerome Rothenberg]), mixed chorus, 1971

VOCAL: Thirteen Ways of looking at a Blackbird (text by Wallace Stevens), tenor, 2 flutes, violin, viola, cello, 1958 (also version for bass, alto flute, oboe, viola, cello, double bass, 1971); 'Listen...!', 3 sopranos, piano, 1981, revised 1984; Voice(s), any number of female voices, variable ensemble ad libitum, tape delay system, 1982–83; Sneezles, soprano, alto recorder/flute, clarinet, tenor-bass trombone, electric guitar, violin, double bass, vibraphone, 1986, revised 1995; Ain't I a Woman? (text by Sojourner Truth), speaker-cello, 2 violins, 2 violas, 2 celli, celesta, 1992

PIANO: Music for Player Piano, 1964; Three Rags, 1969 (also versions of no. 2, 'Milk and Honey', for any number of mandolins, any number of mandolas, any number of mandocelli; no. 3, 'Tangled Rag', for string orchestra, 1978); Spectral CANON for CONLON Nancarrow, player piano, 1974 (also longer version, 1991); Chromatic Canon, 2 pianos, 1980, revised 1983; Bridge, 2 microtonal pianos 8 hands, 1982–84; Flocking, 2 quarter-tone pianos, 1993; Ergodos III, 2 pianos, 1994; 3 Pages in the Shape of a Pear, 1995; Prelude and Toccata, 2001; To Weave, 2002–03

ELECTROACOUSTIC: Collage No. 1 (Blue Suede), tape, 1961; Analog No. 1: Noise Study, tape, 1961; Entrance/Exit Music, tape, 1962 (collaboration with George Brecht); Dialogue, tape, 1963; Phases, tape, 1963; Ergodos I, tape, 1963; Ergodos II, tape, 1964; Fabric for Che, tape, 1967; For Ann (rising), tape, 1969; Form 5, tape, 1993

ARRANGEMENTS: Love me doDo you want to know a secret (The Beatles), piano, 1992; Five Studies for Player Piano (Conlon Nancarrow), small orchestra (with 2 conductors), 2000

FILM SCORES (DIRECTOR): Interim, 1952, revised 1998 (Stan Brakhage); Viet Flakes, 1966 (Carolee Schneemann); Brakhage, 1998 (Jim Shedden)

DISCOGRAPHY (as composer)

Harmonium No. 5. Arraymusic (Artifact Music: ART-002, 1988)

Postal Piece No. 4: Koan. Malcolm Goldstein, violin (¿What Next?: WN0005, 1991)

Critical Band (original version). Relâche Ensemble (Mode Records: 22, 1992)

Collage No. 1 (Blue Suede); Analog No. 1: Noise Study; Dialogue; Phases; Music for Player Piano; Ergodos II; Fabric for Che; For Ann (rising). (Artifact Music: ART-1007/Frog Peak Music: FP001, 1992)

Chromatic Canon (revised version). Edmund Niemann, Nurit Tilles, pianos (CRI: 637, 1992)

Do you want to know a secretLove me do. Aki Takahashi, piano (Toshiba EMI: TOCE-8021, 1992)

Ergodos I. (Koch/Schwann: 7238, 1993)

Viet Flakes. (Musicworks: 56, 1993)

Three New Seeds. Michael J. Baker/Arraymusic (Artifact Music: ART-006, 1993)

Tableaux Vivants. Sound Pressure (Soundprints: SP9301, 1994)

Spectral CANON for CONLON Nancarrow (revised version). (Col Legno: WWE 31882, 1995)

'Water on the Mountain...Fire in Heaven'. Seth Josel, electric guitars (CRI: 697, 1995)

Three New Seeds. Michael J. Baker/Arraymusic (Canada Council for the Arts/Sony Music Special Projects: CDSP 4510, 1995)

Koan. Modern String Quartet (Musicworks: 64, 1996)

Saxony. Henrik Frisk, saxophone (Hornblower: HR 96101, 1996)

Bridge; Flocking. Tomas Bächli, Erika Radermacher, Gertrud Schneider, Manfred Werder, pianos (Hat Hut: 6193, 1996)

Septet (original version). Mills College Ensemble (Leonardo Music Journal: 7, 1997)

Saxony. Ulrich Krieger, saxophone (OOdiscs: 32, 1997)

Diaphonic Study. Hildegard Kleeb, piano; Tetras String Quartet (ORF Steiermark: MP97 ORF 15, 1997)

Diapason. Kwamé Ryan/SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg (Col Legno: WWE 20008, 1997)

Rune. Nexus (Nexus: 10511, 1997)

Septet (original version). Seth Josel, electric guitars, bass guitar (OOdiscs: 36, 1998)

Postal Piece Nos. 3: (night); 5: Maximusic; 10: Having Never Written a Note for Percussion; deus ex machina; Instrumental Response (with Ergodos II). Matthias Kaul, percussion (Hat Hut: hat[now]ART 111, 1998)

Tangled Rag (from Three Rags) (original version). Virginia Eskin, piano (Koch/Schwann: 7440, 1998)

The Road to Ubud. Henry Kucharzyk, prepared piano; Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan (Artifact Music: ART-021, 1999)

Diaphonic Toccata; Diaphonic Trio; Postal Piece No. 4: Koan; 3 Pages in the Shape of a Pear; Chorale (revised version); Instrumental Response (with Ergodos II). Sabat/Clarke Duo (Hat Hut: hat[now]ART 120, 1999)

Postal Piece No. 10: Having Never Written a Note for Percussion. Sonic Youth (Sonic Youth: 4, 1999)

Chorale (revised version). Sabat/Clarke Duo (Musicworks: 77, 2000)

Milk and Honey (from Three Rags) (original version). Elaine Keillor, piano (BR: 1336, 2001)

Instrumental Response (with Ergodos I). (University of Illinois, 2001)

Forms 14. musikFabrik (Hat Hut: hat[now]ART 127, 2002)

Spectral CANON for CONLON Nancarrow (revised version). (Cold Blue Music: CB0008, 2002)

Postal Piece No. 5: Maximusic; Postal Piece No. 6: Swell Piece No. 1; Postal Piece No. 2: A Rose is a Rose is a Round; Postal Piece No. 1: Beast; Postal Piece No. 7a: Swell Piece No. 2; Postal Piece No. 10: Having Never Written a Note for Percussion; Postal Piece No. 4: Koan; Postal Piece No. 3: (night); Postal Piece No. 7b: Swell Piece No. 3; Postal Piece No. 9: Cellogram; Postal Piece No. 8: August Harp. James Fulkerson/Barton Workshop (New World Records: 80612, 2004)

Music for Player Piano; Spectral CANON for CONLON Nancarrow (revised version). (Musikproduktion Dabringhaus und Grimm: MDG 645 1406-2)

Three Rags. Nurit Tilles, piano (Jazzology: JCE 87)

The Road to Ubud; Cognate Canons; Three Pieces for Drum Quartet. William Winant/San Francisco Contemporary Music Players (New Albion Records)

Rune; Pika-Don; Three Pieces for Drum Quartet; Postal Piece No. 5: Maximusic. Jan Williams/Maelstrom (Hat Hut)

(Last updated on December 21, 2006)

James Tenney, James Tenny, James Tennee, Jim Tenney, Jim Tenny, Jim Tennee, James C. Tenney, James C. Tenny, James C. Tennee, James Carl Tenney, James Carl Tenny, James Carl Tennee, J.C. Tenney, J.C. Tenny, J.C. Tennee