On Growth and Form in Experimental Music Composition and Analysis
Widely respected by both avant-garde and academic musicians, the American experimental composer and music theorist James Tenney (1934-2006), whose early pioneering research included work with psychoacoustics at Bell Labs, is increasingly recognized as one of the 20th century’s most insightful musical thinkers. Tenney frames two sections of his 1961 book Meta +Hodos with passages from Scottish biologist and mathematician D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson’s On Growth and Form (1941). Echoing Thompson’s biological notion of an object’s dynamic form finding its source in the interaction of multiple forces, Tenney articulates a set of active, musical forces in play at the intersection of human aural perception and musical pattern. He also captures the shape, or form, of specific musical entities in “parameter profile” plots, paralleling Thompson’s idea that “the form of an object is a ‘diagram of forces’.”
Tenney’s prescient book importantly encompasses crucial aspects of now well-established contemporary music analysis. Tenney employs these concepts as a means for generalizing theoretical discussions of music and thus is able to reach beyond the specifics of particular musical languages. His theoretical approaches also inform his compositions. This talk includes straightforward explications of the influence of Thompson’s conceptualizations as far-reaching contributors to a theory of music, and its realization in multiple compositions, in which multi- dimensional pattern is intertwined with the patterning processes inherent in human aural perception.
Dr Ann Warde is a composer and researcher and was a visiting Fulbright scholar at the University of York in 2015-16. She was an analyst and computer programmer at Cornell University’s Bioacoustics Research Program, part of the Lab of Ornithology between 2004-2014. Ann has degrees in electroacoustic music composition and ethnomusicology from the University of Michigan, Wesleyan University, and the University of Illinois. Her compositions and presentations have been heard throughout North America, and in Europe—most recently in Britain and at the Orpheus Institute in Ghent, Belgium. http://www.zsonics.org/