Cover for WANNAMAKER: The Music of James Tenney: Volume 1: Contexts and Paradigms. Click for larger image

The Music of James Tenney

Volume 1: Contexts and Paradigms

Parsing the works of the experimental music pioneer

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 provides in-depth, aurally grounded analyses of works linked to the artist's revolutionary theories of musical form, timbre, and harmonic perception.

Volume 1: Contexts and Paradigms, chronologically surveys Tenney's creative development and output. Wannamaker begins each section with biographical, aesthetic, and technical context that illuminates a distinct period in Tenney's career. From there, he analyzes a small number of pieces that illuminate the concerns, characteristics, and techniques that emerged in Tenney's music during that time. Wannamaker supplements the text with musical examples, graphs, and diagrams while also drawing on unpublished material and newly available primary sources to flesh out each work and the ideas that shaped it.

A landmark in experimental music scholarship, The Music of James Tenney is a first-of-its-kind consideration of the experimental music titan and his work.

"An astonishing book, a virtual encyclopedia of James Tenney that threatens to leave no remaining scope for further scholarly work on his music. It answered many questions I've long had about Tenney's music, and has already acted as a spur to my own work. The amount of information one could currently find on Tenney's work would comprise only a small fraction of what is included here."--Kyle Gann, author of The Arithmetic of Listening: Tuning Theory and History for the Impractical Musician

"Wannamaker's essential, extraordinary work on the music of James Tenney is a brilliantly detailed and exhaustively researched addition to our comprehensive understanding of Tenney's music and compositional ideas, and to our conception of music of the second half of the twentieth century."--Larry Polansky, Emeritus Strauss Professor of Music, Dartmouth College

Publication supported by grants from the AMS 75 PAYS Endowment of the American Musicological Society, supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the Henry and Edna Binkele Classical Music Fund; and the California Institute for the Arts.


Robert Wannamaker is Associate Dean for Academic and Special Projects in the School of Music at the California Institute of the Arts. He is a composer, improviser, music theorist, mathematician, and educator.

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