Monday, September 04, 2006

R.I.P. James "Jim" Tenney + Willi Ninja

I don't imagine these two men ever shared a stage, but they were each originals and innovators in their own fields and will be sadly missed by those who knew and were inspired by them.

Willi Ninja - Dancer/choreographer/performer "Godfather of Vogue"

Like most folks I first saw Ninja in Jennie Livingston's documentary Paris Is Burning where I was stunned by the flexibility and precision of his movements, and the committed focus of his performance style. Since then I had seen him in various things, music videos, interviews, but never live, yet he always communicated such presence even through the contained box of the tv screen. I had read that Ninja was in the hospital, seriously ill from AIDS related causes, on Emanuel Xavier's website, but that he was doing considerably better. It was with great sadness that I read at jstheater of the passing of this legend who was beloved by many. Keith Boykin, LaTasha Natasha Diggs , Jasmyne Cannick, Xavier, and others have penned tributes and notices regarding Ninja. He was one of a kind.

More info (candlelight vigils in NYC, Chicago, and Miami, etc.) is available on Xavier's myspace page, and Willi Ninja's myspace page . You'll need to subscribe to myspace for access to these pages.

Funeral services are being held in St. Albans, Queens:
Friday, September 8, 2006 (7-9 pm)
Roy L. Gilmore's Funeral Home
19102 Linden Boulevard
Saint Albans, Queens, NY 11412
718-529-3030

* * *

James "Jim" Tenney 1934-2006 - Composer/digital arts

An innovator's innovator (reportedly when John Cage was asked, in 1989, with whom he would study, were he a young student, he responded "James Tenney.") James Tenney succumbed on August 24th to a reoccurance of lung cancer after a remission of a number of years.

From Douglas Kuhn (author of Noise Water Meat):

"The first composer to work seriously with digitally synthesized sound died a few days ago. He was working at Bell Labs in the early 1960s with Max Mathews, John Pierce and others while, at the same time working in the experimental arts scene in Soho and married to Carolee Schneemann. A pencil protector by day, rolling around on the floor naked with plucked chickens and slabs of beef by night.

"He is known as a composer's composer to a couple/three generations that followed, presenting his wisdom in his works as well as profound history and theory, beginning with the classic Meta-Hodos.

"Because music composition was historically conducive to the reductions of code, his early computer pieces are still strong when heard today, in contrast with the early visual arts by computer, meaning that he was also has an important place in the history of the digital arts as a whole, the arts by computation so pervasive now...I interviewed him in 1999 for the Leonardo Electronic Almanac (it's a temperamental url). So sad to realize he won't be here to see once again."

For more information about Tenney:
CalArts faculty page where he was Roy E. Disney Family Chair in Musical Composition
Musicologist/music writer Kyle Gann's writing on Tenney's passing and numerous remembrances from colleagues and students.
Some of Tenney's work is available at CDeMUSIC

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