Chapter

About <i>Diapason</i>

James Tenney

Edited by Larry Polansky, Lauren Pratt, Robert Wannamaker and Michael Winter

in From Scratch

Published by University of Illinois Press

Published in print September 2015 | ISBN: 9780252038723
Published online April 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780252096679 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5406/illinois/9780252038723.003.0019
About Diapason

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James Tenney reflects on his 1996 composition Diapason. Near the beginning and the end of the piece, the “diapason” includes harmonics from the forty-eighth through sixty-fourth, whereas at the dynamic climax, it includes the first through the seventeenth partials. Tenney discusses some unusual procedures that are required to perform the piece, including: all of the string instruments are retuned in an elaborate scordatura; wind players are free to choose from the set of pitches being played at any moment by the string players nearest to them; and to facilitate this process, each wind player is seated between two string players or is, in fact, surrounded by from four to six string players whose pitches can thus be matched in this way. Tenney also claims that he produced these unusual pitches because of his belief that we have entered a new music-historical era during which there will be a resumption of the evolutionary development of harmony.

Keywords: harmony; diapason; harmonics; pitch; string instruments; scordatura; wind players; string players; James Tenney

Chapter.  1020 words. 

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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