For Ann (rising)

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For Ann (rising) is a piece of electronic music created by James Tenney in 1969.

Tenney is the author of Meta (+) Hodos, one of, if not the, earliest applications of gestalt theory and cognitive science to music, and later "Hierarchical temporal gestalt perception in music: a metric space model" with Larry Polansky, and other works, the influence of may be seen in many of his pieces including the twelve-minute For Ann (rising).

The piece is based upon the Shepard scale concept, named after Tenney's colleague at Bell Labs psychologist Roger Shepard, though the technique which the piece uses is more properly described as a continuous Risset scale or Shepard-Risset glissando (Polansky 2003).

Each rising sine-wave-like glissando, between twelve and fifteen rising at any time, fades in and out, all entering a minor sixth below their predecessors, rising from the infrasonic to ultrasonic range, from below to above the ability to perceive pitch (Polansky 2003).

While the original experiments were intended to illustrate a property of human perception, Tenney's piece problematizes it:

One simultaneously perceives the lines as forming one continuously rising line, yet one is constantly aware of shifts in perception from line to line or lines. According to reviewer Jeremy Grimshaw, "there emerges at the upper frequency threshold a crystalline conglomeration of extremely high pitches, which glimmer as an indistinguishable mass even as glissandi continually enter the top range and fade" According to his friend Philip Corner For Ann (rising), "must be optimistic! (Imagine the depressing effectiveness of it—he could never be so cruel—downward)..." (Grimshaw n.d.)

Tenney has suggested the piece be "regenerated" with the distance between successive voices, the minor sixth (1.6 in just intonation, 1.587 in equal temperament), being tuned to golden ratio phi (1.618). This is desirable because then all first-order difference tones between adjacent voices would be present in lower voices (Polansky 2003).

See also[edit]


  • Grimshaw, Jeremy. n.d. "James Tenney: For Ann (Rising): Description". (accessed 27 September 2014).
  • Polansky, Larry. 2003. Liner notes to James Tenney: Selected Works 1961–1969. Regenerated by Tom Erbe using Barry Vercoe's CSound according to Tenney's specifications. New World Records 805702.
  • Erbe, Tom. 2011. "Some notes on For Ann (rising)".

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