James Tenney '58


Image of James Tenney

An influential composer, music theorist, and performer, James Tenney ’58 cofounded and served as conductor of the Tone Roads Chamber Ensemble in New York City and has performed with ensembles of Harry Partch, John Cage, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass.

He was a pioneer in the field of electronic and computer music, working with Max Mathews and others at Bell Telephone Laboratories in the early 1960s to develop programs for computer sound-generation and composition. His work from 1961 to 1964 was one of the earliest significant bodies of computer music in existence. Tenney authored numerous articles on musical acoustics, computer music, musical form, and perception, and two books: Meta + Hodos: A Phenomenology of 20th-Century Musical Materials and an Approach to the Study of Form (Frog Peak Music, 1988) and A History of 'Consonance' and 'Dissonance' (Excelsior Music Publishing, 1988). He received grants and awards from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the Canada Council, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Fromm Foundation.

Tenney attended the University of Denver, The Juilliard School of Music, Bennington College (BA, 1958), and the University of Illinois (MA, 1961) and later taught at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, the California Institute of the Arts, the University of California, and York University in Toronto.

Photograph © Rick McGinnis