Robert Wannamaker Pens ‘Monumental’ Two-Volume Study on Work of James Tenney

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Robert Wannamaker, associate dean for Academic and Special Projects in The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts, has written The Music of James Tenney, a two-volume study of the late composer’s influential music and ideas published by the University of Illinois Press. 

Tenney served as faculty in School of Music at CalArts from 1970 to 1975, and returned to the Institute to serve as the Roy E. Disney Chair in Composition from 2000 to 2006. Wannamaker’s work focuses on Tenney’s compositions, split into Volume 1: Contexts and Paradigms, a chronological survey of his works, and Volume 2: A Handbook to the Pieces, a comprehensive account of his significant experimental projects after 1959. More about the work from University of Illinois Press:

Robert Wannamaker’s monumental two-volume study explores the influential music and ideas of American composer, theorist, writer, performer, and educator James Tenney. Delving into the whole of Tenney’s far-ranging oeuvre, Wannamaker offers close, aurally grounded analyses of works linked to the artist’s revolutionary theories of musical form, timbre, and harmonic perception.

Kyle Gann, author of The Arithmetic of Listening: Tuning Theory and History for the Impractical Musician, offered the following review: “An astonishing book, a virtual encyclopedia of James Tenney that threatens to leave no remaining scope for further scholarly work on his music.”

Tenney’s vast influence on American music encompasses contributions to Minimalism, microtonal music, early computer music, exploration of timbral variety, and Fluxus—Tenney notably collaborated with artist Alison Knowles on the legendary House of Dust, a computer-generated poem and sculpture. His distinct sound has inspired generations of musicians, composers, and sound artists alike; among his past students are CalArtians Peter Garland (Music BFA 73), Chas Smith (Music MFA 77, BFA 75), John Bischoff (Music BFA 71), and Pulitzer Prize winner John Luther Adams (Music BFA 73).

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PUBLISHED BY Taya Zoormandan

As digital content and social media producer, Taya enjoys lifting up the stories and accomplishments of CalArts' students, alums, and faculty. She fancies herself a visual artist but is really more of an overzealous collector of art supplies.

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