Postal Piece No. 10: Having Never Written a Note for Percussion
In the early 1960s it was difficult to tell the visual artists from the composers. La Monte Young created conceptual art. Yves Klein composed symphonies. James Tenney did both. He was an integral part of the first generation of Minimalists (an early member of the Philip Glass Ensemble), as well as a founding part of the sound art scene. Both artists and Minimalists were questioning the fundamentals. And when artists like Tenney began to examine the fundamentals of music, they often came up with very minimal results. Tenney’s Postal Pieces are the perfect example of this experimental Minimalism. They came about from Tenney’s aversion to writing letters. Short compositions would instead be sent on backs of postcards. The last, Having Never Written a Note for Percussion, is a work for a solo percussionist. The only instructions are that the performer must roll a single note from quadruple pianissimo through to quadruple fortissimo and that it should be “very long”. The point of this seemingly simple act is to train the ears on the sounding process itself - on the instrument’s overtones and the hall’s sympathetic resonances.