Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

When I read last year in PostClassic that composer James Tenney had died (and you can hear excerpts from a piece by him here), I checked the library to see what music of his they might have, and found this gorgeous CD of piano duets played by a duo calling themselves Double Edge -- Edmund Niemann and Nurit Tilles. Tenney's piece is a lyrical, dissonant, quasi-minimalist piece of loveliness in arch form. The CD's pieces by Meredith Monk, Ellington & Strayhorn (the "party piece" they wrote to play together, "Tonk"), Paul Bowles (with a Satie-esque waltz), and Morton Feldman are equally gorgeous.

Tenney's piece "Having Never Written a Note for Percussion," which I've only heard in Sonic Youth’s arrangement, is equally gorgeous and lyrical, and also richly satisfying in an arch form, starting quietly, building to a peak, and gradually subsiding to its initial level, though not identically pitched. I don't know why I find his arches so satisfying. I want to hear more of his music.

You might find Tenney's arches satisfying because they are so clear and uncluttered. For many of his compositions form is a singular conceptual focus. I recommend "Critical Band" - which is on a Relache CD of the same name. The HatArt releases: _Forms 1-4_ and _Pika-Don_ are also great. And there's a good version of "Having Never Written A Note for Percussion" on the _Postal Pieces_ double CD.

Tenney remains a significant influence from the four years I studied with him. His gentle prodding to think deeply about musical parameters continues to have a lasting impact. And his music cuts right to the core of human perception with so much elegance. It was a privilege to be taken under his wing as a student and as a friend.
Thanks for the tips -- and for the personal remembrance.
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