James Tenney was a pianist, composer and teacher and a student of some of the Twentieth centuryâ€™s greatest composers, among them Edgard VarĂ¨se, John Cage and Harry Partch. He was an early pioneer of computer-generated music, and of the application of information theory to the art of composition. For the last six years of his life, he taught composition at the California School for the Arts. James Tenney died on August 24, 2006.
James Tenney, from the California Institute of the Arts, talks about his background in composition. He started out as a pianist and began composing before having formal training in the discipline. He explains that his first compositions were naive but that he gradually began to desire composing over the desire to play the piano. He discusses his heroes such as Charles Ives, Edgar Vares, John Cage, plus European composers such as Bartok, Stravinsky, Schoenberg and what he learned from them. He discusses Cage and his ideas about the nature of sound, the hearing process, and aesthetics about the creative process.
Renowned composer James Tenney talks about his career, the difficult of teaching composition, and offers advice to young composers on the many tools and bodies of knowledge they should master in order to excel in their chosen field.