Home Art & Culture ‘Blue’ Gene Tyranny, Whose Music Melded Genres, Dies at 75

‘Blue’ Gene Tyranny, Whose Music Melded Genres, Dies at 75

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“Blue and Bob had this symbiotic relationship from back in Ann Arbor,” Mr. Gordon, who also participated in the creation of “Perfect Lives,” said in a phone interview. “The character Buddy is like the avatar for the music of ‘Blue’ Gene.”

“What we commonly recognize as music in ‘Perfect Lives’ was ‘Blue’ Gene’s,” Mr. Gordon explained, “but the overall composition was Bob’s.” Mr. Tyranny would contribute in different ways to later Ashley operas, including “Dust” (1998) and “Celestial Excursions” (2003).

In his own music, much of which he recorded for the Lovely Music label, Mr. Tyranny moved from early efforts with graphic notation and magnetic tape to compositions that drew from popular styles. Some selections on his debut solo album, “Out of the Blue” (1978), like “Leading a Double Life,” were essentially pop songs. “A Letter From Home,” which closed that album, mixed found sounds and dreamy keyboards with an epistolary text, spoken and sung, ranging from the mundane to the philosophical.

He worked extensively with electronics and labored throughout the 1990s on “The Driver’s Son,” which he termed an “audio storyboard.” A realization of that piece, a questing monodrama set to lush timbres and bubbly rhythms, will be included in “Degrees of Freedom Found,” a six-CD boxed set of unreleased Tyranny recordings due on Unseen Worlds in the spring. Mr. Tyranny, who lost his eyesight in 2009 and gave up performing after 2016, helped to compile the set, hoping to give his disparate canon a coherent shape.

Mr. Tyranny’s compositions divided critical response. “To this taste, Mr. Tyranny’s work too often skirts the trivial,” John Rockwell wrote in a 1987 New York Times review. But Ben Ratliff, in a 2012 Times review of the last new recording issued during Mr. Tyranny’s life, “Detours,” offered a different view: “Mr. Sheff represents a lot of different American energies.”

He added, “He does not stint on beautiful things — major arpeggios, soul-chord progressions, lines that flow and breathe — and his keyboard touch is rounded and gorgeous, a feeling you remember.”

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