A James Tenney Concert: The Postal Pieces and Other Selected Works

As part of their current season dedicated to Carolee Schneemann, The Artist’s Institute presents a concert of rarely performed works by composer James Tenney (1934-2006), Schneemann’s romantic and creative partner during the first decade of her career. At the center of the program are selections from Tenney’s Postal Pieces (1965-1971), a series of eleven compositions originally written on postcards to contemporaries including Philip Corner, Alison Knowles, and La Monte Young, among others. Tenney referred to the set as “koans” and like the Buddhist paradoxes these pieces are both rigorously constructed and radically open to interpretation: “Having Never Written a Note for Percussion,” for example, indicates that any piece of percussion play a precise, symmetrical swell for a duration of “very long.” In Tenney’s words, these are sounds “for the sake of perceptual insight” that use their predictable, deductive forms towards a counter-intuitive indeterminacy: pure change without the safety-net of dramatic conventions.

Also included in the program is the early “Improvisation for Cello” (1956), as well as several late instrumental ensemble works and electroacoustic tape pieces. Eric Smigel, associate professor of music at San Diego State University, will introduce the concert with a presentation on the late composer’s life and work with Schneemann.

Organized by Alex Waterman

with special thanks to Larry Polansky

Performers: Shelley Burgon, Richard Carrick, Conrad Harris, Miguel Frasconi, Chris McIntyre, Reuben Radding, and David Shively

Image: A Rose Is A Rose Is A Round,” from Postal Pieces by James Tenney. Copyright Sonic Art Editions, used by permission of Smith Publications.