November 10 & November 11, 2017
tickets and details here.


The Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound (SASSAS) proudly presents the world premiere of James Tenney’s Changes: Sixty-Four Studies for Six Harps. Composed in 1985, Changes uses a FORTRAN IV computer program to poetically render the 64 chance procedures of the I-Ching, the ancient Chinese divination text, into a microtonal harmonic field performed on six specially tuned harps. This concert will be mounted at The Box in Los Angeles on November 11, 2017 and is free to the public. Doors open at 6:30PM, and composer Michael Winter will give a 30 minute pre-concert talk at 7PM. The concert begins promptly at 8PM.

“Tenney was as close to experimental music royalty as a modern composer could get…  to some extent, he was the ultimate Western composer. He approached each new piece as an adventure, with the goal of discovering original territory and, if need be, taming some theoretical musical beast or acoustical bugbear.” 
  Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times

Changes consists of six harps tuned a sixth of a semitone apart and played in complex interlocking hockets. A semitone is the distance between contiguous keys on a piano, and a hocket is when a melody is divided between several instruments. Tenney generated the score by using the FORTRAN IV programming language to interpret each of the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching. While Tenney completed all 64 studies during his lifetime, only 16 were transcribed for performance when he passed in 2006. Since then, former students including Michael Winter worked to transcribe the remaining studies.

At over two hours in length, Changes is a physical performance that envelopes its audience in an expanded microtonal palette and requires technical dexterity and stamina from its players. To realize this undertaking, SASSAS has enlisted Los Angeles’ finest harpists and new music interpreters. Conducted by Nicholas Deyoe, the ensemble includes Alison Bjorkedal, Ellie Choate, Liz Huston, Catherine Litaker, Amy Shulman, and Ruriko Terada.

“In a way he stands at the center of American music, a kind of focal point: he studied and worked with seminal figures such as Varèse, Partch, Ruggles, Cage...; he performed in the ensembles of his contemporaries Philip Glass and Steve Reich; and he has taught some of the leading young composers, including John Luther Adams… No other composer is so revered by fellow composers, and so unknown to the public at large…”
Kyle Gann, American Music in the Twentieth Century

Tenney’s influence on American music is vast; including contributions to Minimalism, Fluxus, microtonal music (assisted Harry Partch), early computer music (first composer in residence at Bell Laboratories), and exploration of timbral variety (studied with Edgar Varese). Additionally Tenney's work has inspired multiple generations of musicians, composers and sound artists; his past students include Peter Garland, Chas Smith, John Bischoff, and Pulitzer Prize winner John Luther Adams. He was Distinguished Research Professor at York University, where he taught for twenty-four years, and held the Roy E. Disney Family Chair in Musical Composition at the California Institute of the Arts.

Tenney also had a long history with the visual arts. He was a childhood friend and lifelong collaborator with filmmaker Stan Brakhage, and scored Brakhage’s first film Interim. Married to Carolee Schneemanfrom 1959 to 1968, Tenney was featured in several of her films, including Fuses, Meat Joy, and Viet Flakes (for which he composed the music). He participated in numerous premieres of Fluxus event scores, and taught computer programming classes for artists that were attended by Nam June Paik, Dick Higgins, Alison Knowles, and Jackson Mac Low. He also performed in the premiere of Steve Reich’slandmark Pendulum Music, alongside Richard Serra, Bruce Nauman, and Michael Snow.

SASSAS has a long connection with James Tenney—he was an advisor to the organization from the time it was formed in 2002. Just prior to the creation of SASSAS, founder Cindy Bernard worked with Tenney on a concert of his own works for the sound. concert series which included Having Never Written a Note for Percussion. The 2002 performance of early works of John Cage curated by Tenney was the first sound. concert presented by SASSAS. In 2009, SASSAS presented Tributaries: Dedicated to the Memory of James Tenney, and in 2012 SASSAS presented his Postal Pieces as part of Welcome Inn Time Machine, part of The Getty Foundation’s The Pacific Standard Time Performance and Public Art Festival initiative.


The concert begins at 8PM on Saturday, November 11, 2017 
at The Box gallery, located at 805 Traction Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Doors will open at 6:30PM, and composer Michael Winter will give
a 30 minute pre-concert talk at 7PM.