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Terry Jennings (19 July 1940 – 11 December 1981) was an American minimalist composer and performer.

Early life in CaliforniaEdit

Terry Jennings was born in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, California, in 1940. Coming from a background in jazz, he played piano, clarinet, and saxophones. He played jazz with La Monte Young in Los Angeles in the mid-1950s, and later began to compose in the manner of Young's early sustained-tone style (Garland and Young 2001). He also studied with Robert Erickson at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Leonard Stein at the California Institute of the Arts.

New York CityEdit

Jennings was active as both composer and performer in New York starting in 1960, where he worked with the James Waring Dance Company and with La Monte Young's Theatre of Eternal Music. His early works are quiet, simple, and restrained. Two of his compositions from 1960, Piano Piece and String Quartet were published in An Anthology of Chance Operations, edited by Young (1963). This publication led to the performance of both pieces in England by Cornelius Cardew and others (Garland and Young 2001). He gave musical performances in the early 1960s at venues such as The Living Theatre, the ONCE Festival of New Music, and at Yoko Ono’s Chambers Street loft and performed on saxophone with La Monte Young (Young was Jennings’ closest associate and teacher) and with John Cale and Charlotte Moorman.

Jennings’ early music is sparse and nearly motionless. Piece for Cello and Saxophone is a reflection on a handful of chords and melodic patterns modulating through a chorale-like progression in very slow motion. One of his early pieces, Piano, is included in manuscript in the book Notations by John Cage (1969,[page needed]). He strongly influenced American composers Harold Budd and Peter Garland, as well as British composer Howard Skempton. In the 1970s, he turned to a neo-romantic style (Garland and Young 2001).

Jennings died in San Pablo, California in 1981.


  • Cage, John. 1969. Notations. New York and West Glover, Vermont: Something Else Press. ISBN 0-87110-000-2.
  • Garland, Peter, and La Monte Young. 2001. "Jennings, Terry". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  • Patterson, Ben. 1968. "Terry Jennings: Making of a Musician, 1968". Village Voice (11 January).
  • Young, La Monte (ed.). 1963. An Anthology of Chance Operations. Bronx, N.Y.: La Monte Young and Jackson Mac Low. Second edition, New York: H. Friedrich, 1970.