‘Blue’ Gene Tyranny, Whose Music Melded Genres, Dies at 75
“Blue and Bob had that symbiotic relationship from back in Ann Arbor,” said Gordon, who also helped create Perfect Lives, in a telephone interview. “The character Buddy is like the avatar for the music of ‘Blue’ Gene.”
“What we generally recognize as music in ‘Perfect Lives’ was ‘Blue’ Gene’s,” explained Gordon, “but the overall composition was Bob’s.” Mr. Tyranny contributed to later Ashley operas in a number of ways, including “Dust” (1998) and “Celestial Excursions” (2003).
In his own music, many of which he recorded for the Lovely Music label, Mr. Tyranny switched from early efforts with graphic notation and magnetic tape to compositions derived from popular styles. Some selections on his debut solo album “Out of the Blue” (1978), such as “Leading a Double Life”, were essentially pop songs. “A Letter From Home”, which closed this album, mixed found sounds and dreamy keyboards with spoken and sung letter text that ranged from secular to philosophical.
He worked extensively with electronics and worked on “The Driver’s Son” in the 1990s, which he referred to as the “Audio Storyboard”. A realization of this piece, a searching monodrama with lush timbres and bubbling rhythms, will be included in Degrees of Freedom Found, a set of unreleased tyranny recordings with six CDs due out on Unseen Worlds this spring. Mr. Tyranny, who lost his sight in 2009 and gave up the performance after 2016, helped put the set together in hopes of giving a coherent shape to its diverse canons.
Mr. Tyranny’s compositions shared the critical response. “To this taste, Mr. Tyranny’s work too often bypasses the trivial,” wrote John Rockwell in a 1987 New York Times review. But Ben Ratliff, in a 2012 Times Review of the last new recording released during Mr. Tyranny’s life, Detours, offered a different view: “Mr. Sheff represents many different American energies.”
He added, “He’s not limited to beautiful things – big arpeggios, soul chord progressions, flowing and breathing lines – and his keyboard touch is round and beautiful, a feeling you will remember.”