Obituary: Composer James Tenney, 72



James Tenney

Composer James Tenney died on August 24, 2006, after a relapse with lung cancer. He was 72.

A link between American mavericks such as Varèse, Partch, Ruggles, and Cage (with whom he worked and studied) and today’s downtown experimentalists, Tenney was a pioneer in electronic and computer music, though later in his career he turned to composing almost exclusively for acoustic instruments. He also wrote widely on aspects of musical acoustics, form, and perception. He had held the Roy E. Disney Family Chair in Musical Composition at CalArts since 2000.

Critic Kyle Gann, who has published a memorial for Tenney here, is widely quoted for noting that “when John Cage, who studied with Schoenberg, was asked in 1989 whom he would study with if he were young today, he replied, ‘James Tenney.’ ”

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