Author Topic: James Tenney’s Tent  (Read 990 times)

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Offline Mandryka

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James Tenney’s Tent
« on: March 30, 2020, 12:49:01 AM »
James Tenney’s harmonic ideas were praised by John Cage, who was his teacher for a while. And I guess he repaid the complement with this paper on Cage’s approach to harmony

http://www.plainsound.org/pdfs/JC&ToH.pdf

I have only started to explore his music, really in these two recordings. I know nothing about how they are designed, whether they were constructed using chance operations, what sort of interpretation challenges and opportunities the score offers the performers.

     
« Last Edit: March 30, 2020, 01:02:18 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: James Tenney’s Tent
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2020, 02:02:43 AM »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: James Tenney’s Tent
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2020, 02:15:01 AM »


This is an interesting CD I think, with, among other things,  a Harmonium #2 with a harmonic language which makes me think of Feldman in his bleaker moods. Like it.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: James Tenney’s Tent
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2020, 07:27:58 PM »
<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/8Tpo2tCH-6I" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/8Tpo2tCH-6I</a>

This starts off very dull, but after 5 minutes or maybe a little more, the harmonies become really interesting and create a tension, which reminds me of the tension Beethoven creates in those trilling variations of op 111/ ii. Bozzini have a Tenney recording which I’m trying to obtain.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: James Tenney’s Tent
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2020, 05:23:08 AM »
Here’s a live Koan piece from one of the Bozzini's Quartet's concerts. It starts off very tonal and rigid, you have to bear with it for the first half, but it’s worth doing because the second half is fabulous harmonically - incredibly tense - in the way that those trills in op 111/ii are tense.

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/8Tpo2tCH-6I" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/8Tpo2tCH-6I</a>

They have a Tenney CD which I've just ordered

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Offline Mandryka

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Re: James Tenney’s Tent
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2021, 03:13:43 AM »


Going back to this today, it's amazing music and I can see why I was so enthusiastic when I first found it. Contrapuntal, and very expressive, very similar in expression to those melancholic last pieces by Feldman. Written in two phases, three in 2001 and five in 1995 -- I'm not sure if there's a difference between the two vintages. This is music to explore over a lifetime, sort of thing.

One thing I like about it is that there aren't many chords, so it's airy. But at the same time, there are so many voices in counterpoint, it's dense. Airy and dense.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2021, 03:16:02 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: James Tenney’s Tent
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2021, 02:04:33 AM »
Paper on Tenney’s computer algorithms which were at work in so many of my favourite pieces

https://users.flatironinstitute.org/~ahb/papers/dc.pdf

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Offline T. D.

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Re: James Tenney’s Tent
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2021, 06:55:05 AM »
Paper on Tenney’s computer algorithms which were at work in so many of my favourite pieces

https://users.flatironinstitute.org/~ahb/papers/dc.pdf

Thanks, great stuff (I'm a nerd). Weird that the journal title doesn't seem to be given. I haven't had time to peruse the website that links to the .pdf.

Offline T. D.

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Re: James Tenney’s Tent
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2021, 02:30:52 PM »
Changes: Sixty-Four Studies for Six Harps

Video of live performance at http://sassas.org/event/james-tenneys-changes/

Music starts at around 7'45" of "Part One"

Offline Mandryka

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Re: James Tenney’s Tent
« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2021, 08:12:15 AM »
Changes: Sixty-Four Studies for Six Harps

Video of live performance at http://sassas.org/event/james-tenneys-changes/

Music starts at around 7'45" of "Part One"
64 is a fuck of a lot of studies. Is there any structure in there? Does it break down in 4 sets of 16, 8 sets of 8? Or what?
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Offline T. D.

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Re: James Tenney’s Tent
« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2021, 08:47:05 AM »
64 is a fuck of a lot of studies. Is there any structure in there? Does it break down in 4 sets of 16, 8 sets of 8? Or what?

I listened to much of it last night, but just as background music. I skipped over the intro/discussion on the video. My attention faded after the first few, and I don't intend to pursue a recording or research the methodology in detail. What notes I saw referenced the I Ching, and Tenney himself only transcribed 16 before his death. Sorry, I just didn't love the music enough to dig deeper. It did motivate me to pull out my old Terry Riley 2-CD set The Harp of New Albion, though. That piece is more programmatic than systematic, and I prefer the piano sonority. Not to rave overmuch about the Riley, it drags on a bit and many will find it too "new-agey".

The site with the video had these notes:

SASSAS proudly presents the posthumous world premiere of James Tenney’s masterpiece, Changes: Sixty-Four Studies for Six Harps. Tenney (1934–2006) was an American composer, pianist, influential music theorist, and pioneer in electronic and computer music. Written in 1985, Changes: Sixty-Four Studies for Six Harps uses the FORTRAN IV computer programming language to poetically render the 64 chance procedures of the I-Ching, the ancient Chinese divination text, into a microtonal harmonic field performed on six specially tuned harps. While Tenney completed all 64 studies during his lifetime, only 16 were transcribed for performance. Since 2006, dedicated former students have worked to transcribe the remaining studies. With the task recently completed, the Tenney Estate has honored SASSAS with the opportunity to present this ambitious work, which will be mounted at The Box in Los Angeles on Novemeber 11, 2017 and will be free to the public. Video, audio, and photographic documentation of the performance will be accessible to the public through SASSAS’s online archive, bringing Changes and the understanding of Tenney’s work to a wider audience.

Funny aside...I've programmed a lot in FORTRAN IV (though of course not recently) and would enjoy seeing the code! The process/methodology actually interests me more than the music did.


« Last Edit: March 07, 2021, 09:15:25 AM by T. D. »

Offline Mandryka

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Re: James Tenney’s Tent
« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2021, 10:04:39 AM »
I listened to much of it last night, but just as background music. I skipped over the intro/discussion on the video. My attention faded after the first few, and I don't intend to pursue a recording or research the methodology in detail. What notes I saw referenced the I Ching, and Tenney himself only transcribed 16 before his death. Sorry, I just didn't love the music enough to dig deeper. It did motivate me to pull out my old Terry Riley 2-CD set The Harp of New Albion, though. That piece is more programmatic than systematic, and I prefer the piano sonority. Not to rave overmuch about the Riley, it drags on a bit and many will find it too "new-agey".

The site with the video had these notes:

SASSAS proudly presents the posthumous world premiere of James Tenney’s masterpiece, Changes: Sixty-Four Studies for Six Harps. Tenney (1934–2006) was an American composer, pianist, influential music theorist, and pioneer in electronic and computer music. Written in 1985, Changes: Sixty-Four Studies for Six Harps uses the FORTRAN IV computer programming language to poetically render the 64 chance procedures of the I-Ching, the ancient Chinese divination text, into a microtonal harmonic field performed on six specially tuned harps. While Tenney completed all 64 studies during his lifetime, only 16 were transcribed for performance. Since 2006, dedicated former students have worked to transcribe the remaining studies. With the task recently completed, the Tenney Estate has honored SASSAS with the opportunity to present this ambitious work, which will be mounted at The Box in Los Angeles on Novemeber 11, 2017 and will be free to the public. Video, audio, and photographic documentation of the performance will be accessible to the public through SASSAS’s online archive, bringing Changes and the understanding of Tenney’s work to a wider audience.

Funny aside...I've programmed a lot in FORTRAN IV (though of course not recently) and would enjoy seeing the code! The process/methodology actually interests me more than the music did.

I've got a job for you because it's right up your alley. Please read this and provide a management level summary

https://nwr-site-liner-notes.s3.amazonaws.com/80810.pdf
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Offline T. D.

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Re: James Tenney’s Tent
« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2021, 02:51:39 PM »
I've got a job for you because it's right up your alley. Please read this and provide a management level summary

https://nwr-site-liner-notes.s3.amazonaws.com/80810.pdf

Thanks, those are great notes. I didn't look for them on the New World site because I didn't expect them to be informative! I bookmarked the page.

But even so, I don't think the notes give sufficient detail to boil them down to an "executive summary"; besides which, I'm lazy and a dumbass.
For instance, p.6 distinguishes monophonic and polyphonic studies (1 and 2 "lines" respectively). The generation process described on pp. 10-13 is said to be applied to the two types, but it's not clear to me (see e.g. the diagram on p. 11) how or where the second line or "polyphonic" character is defined or introduced.

Strangely, I think that the "feature" described in the last paragraph of p. 13 is incorrect. Unless Tenney in the "early 1960s" was using a grossly flawed (pseudo-) random number generator (which is possible, since those were the days of IBM's infamously bad RANDU), the phenomenon described is general and not specific to computer-generated sequences. (I could give citations from the likes of N.N. Taleb and Nate Silver, but am too lazy to look them up.) So I would describe the "dissonant counterpoint algorithm" as an ad hoc smoothing procedure rather than "making the results of random number selection 'more random'". Which may just be a pedantic or academic distinction.

Kudos to New World Records for publishing such good liner notes.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2021, 03:00:42 PM by T. D. »

Offline Mandryka

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Re: James Tenney’s Tent
« Reply #13 on: May 05, 2021, 06:56:43 AM »
Meta hodos

https://monoskop.org/images/1/13/Tenney_James_Meta-Hodos_and_Meta_Meta-Hodos.pdf


And I’ve been enjoying very much the diaphonic trio, on Marc Sabat’s CD. Mote dissonant counterpoint.
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