A rare collection of four previously unpublished scores by James Tenney dating from the mid-1960s. The four scores; 2nd Thermocouple, CHAMBER MUSIC and Aphorisms #1 and #2 include text scores in various formats, with additions by Carolee Scheemann.
James Tenney Unpublished Scores *SOLD OUT*
“BORE, a new publication jointly produced by Sarah Hughes and David Stent, is a welcome addition to the literature on innovative scores. Each issue is dedicated to presenting performance scores of various genres and forms, with a preference for text-based scores. Accordingly, this first issue includes several previously unpublished verbal scores by composer James Tenney.
The scores—2nd Thermocouple (1965); Aphorisms #1 & #2 (1966); and two versions of Chamber Music (for any number of performers, anywhere) (1964)–are from Tenney’s time in New York in the mid- to late-1960s. This was a relatively brief yet fecund period that saw him influenced by FLUXUS and involved with Steve Reich’s and Philip Glass’s ensembles, as well as the Judson Dance Theater. The influence of the latter in particular is apparent in these scores, all of which are for performance pieces that may or may not involve music.
There is a certain surface simplicity to the works, but this initial impression gives way to a sense of the complexities and ambiguities they contain. This is exemplified by Chamber Music, which Hughes and Stent recently performed in Los Angeles. The score consists of six small cards containing brief verbal cues. Five of the cards’ texts are titled for sections of the work—a Prelude, two Interludes, a Postlude, and a kind of wild card titled “etc.” Each section in turn contains a term that describes a given quality of an action—while leaving the action itself unspecified. As speech acts these are ambiguous, falling somewhere in between description and prescription. Even the movements specified by the score participate in this game of elision: preludes, interludes and postludes are normally placed before, between and after some kind of main event. But as with the actions that are neither prescribed nor described by the score, the space that this main event would occupy is left empty—or at best signaled by what in this context is a highly indeterminate “etc.”
Part of the beauty of BORE—in addition to its clean layout and presentation on high quality paper—is that its scores aren’t meant as museum pieces. Rather, they’re meant to be used. All of the scores are detachable, and the Chamber Music cards even come with an envelope. With this issue, BORE is off to a solid start indeed.”
Avant Music News
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 (Bachelor’s degree 1958), and the University of Illinois (Master’s degree 1961). His teachers and mentors have included Eduard Steuermann, Chou Wen-Chung, Lionel Nowak, Carl Ruggles, Lejaren Hiller, Kenneth Gaburo, Edgard Varèse, Harry Partch, and John Cage.
A performer as well as a composer and theorist, Tenney was co-founder and conductor of the Tone Roads Chamber Ensemble in New York City (1963-70). He was a pioneer 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.
Tenney is the author of several articles on musical acoustics, computer music, and musical form and perception, as well as two books: META + HODOS: A Phenomenology of 20th-Century Musical Materials and 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 Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, and the Jean A. Chalmers Foundation.
Tenney returned to the California Institute of the Arts in the fall of 2000 to take the Roy E. Disney Family Chair in Musical Composition, having taught there at its beginnings in the early 1970s. He has also been on the faculties of at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, the University of California at Santa Cruz and at York University in Toronto where he was named Distinguished Research Professor in 1994.
James Tenney’s music is published by Sonic Art Editions (Baltimore) and the Canadian Music Centre, and is also distributed by Frog Peak (Lebanon, New Hampshire). Recordings are available from Artifact, col legno, CRI, Hat[now]ART, Koch International, Mode, Musicworks, Nexus, oodiscs, SYR, Toshiba EMI, and New World, among others.
Many thanks to Lauren Pratt, Daniel Corral and Patrick Farmer. CHAMBER MUSIC © Sonic Art Editions. Used by permission of Smith Publications, Sharon, Vermont.