James Tenney: Selected Works 1961–1969

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  • Collage #1 (“Blue Suede”) (1961)

  • Analog #1 (Noise Study) (1961)

  • Dialogue (1963)

  • Phases (for Edgard Varèse) (1963)

  • Music for Player Piano (1963–64)

  • Ergodos II (for John Cage) (1964)

  • Fabric for Ché (1967)

  • For Ann (rising) (1969)


The work of James Tenney (born 1934) as a composer, theorist, performer, and teacher, is of singular importance in American music of the past four decades. He is by nature a quiet, almost publicity-shy musician, but his musical and theoretical works are steadily becoming widely known, despite the fact that few have been published and only a relatively small number, to this date, are readily available on recordings. This recording is a reissue of the 1992 Frog Peak/Artifact CD, the first recorded collection of James Tenney’s music of the 1960s. Many of the pieces on this CD were realized at Bell Telephone Laboratories from 1961 to 1969, where Tenney used Max Mathews’s digital synthesis program that eventually became Music IV. This software became the model for many of the common computer music environments of the last forty years, and was the first system of its kind available to composers. Tenney’s pieces from 1961–1964 constitute the first significant and developed body of computer-composed and synthesized music by an American composer.

Tenney was a very young composer when he wrote these pieces. He was working with a new medium, a technology that was still being developed, and a new aesthetic. It is perhaps easy to overlook the importance of the latter in the light of the tremendous technical and historical importance of these pieces-but it is characteristic of Tenney that he was not content just to explore the sonic and technical capabilities of a new technology. To this day, his work from this period remains an important example for composers who work with new technologies: the new world of "computer music" needed a radically new definition of music itself.

The 32-page booklet includes greatly expanded liner notes by composer and former Tenney pupil Larry Polansky.

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