Gene Tyranny

Last updated

Robert Nathan Sheff (January 1, 1945 – December 12, 2020 [1] ), known professionally as "Blue" Gene Tyranny, was an American avant-garde composer and pianist.

Contents

"His memorable pseudonym, coined during his brief stint with Iggy and the Stooges, was derived partly from Jean, his adoptive mother’s middle name," wrote Steve Smith, in his New York Times obituary for Tyranny. "It also referred to what he called 'the tyranny of the genes' — a predisposition to being 'strongly overcome by emotion,' he said in Just for the Record: Conversations With and About ‘Blue’ Gene Tyranny, a documentary film." [2]

Robert Nathan Sheff
Birth nameJoseph Gantic
Also known as“Blue” Gene Tyranny
BornJanuary 1, 1945
San Antonio
DiedDecember 12, 2020(2020-12-12) (aged 75)
Long Island City

Early life

Tyranny was born Joseph Gantic in San Antonio on January 1, 1945 to William and Eleanor Gantic. Later that year, after his birth father, an Army paratrooper, went missing in the Asian theater of World War II, his mother put him up for adoption. He was adopted by Dorothy and Meyer Sheff of San Antonio, who changed his name to Robert Nathan Sheff. [3] [4] [5] Tyranny was raised in the Lutheran church. [6] He studied piano with Meta Hertwig and Rodney Hoare, and composition with Otto Wick and Frank Hughes.

Career

Tyranny began his performance career in high school, playing pieces by major composers (such as John Cage) with Philip Krumm in a concert series in San Antonio. He toured with the Carla Bley Band in 1977 [7] and the Prime Movers (which included Iggy Pop and Michael Erlewine) as well as Iggy & The Stooges. "After releasing the album Raw Power in 1973, [Pop] invited his former bandmate to join him on tour," Steve Smith noted in his New York Times obituary for Tyranny. "Mr. Tyranny accepted, performing with red LED lights woven into his hair." [8] He performed on albums by Laurie Anderson (Strange Angels), David Behrman ( On the Other Ocean ), John Cage ( Cheap Imitation and Empty Words), Peter Gordon, and Robert Ashley ( Perfect Lives, Dust, Celestial Excursions), with whom he frequently collaborated.

He taught at Mills College from 1971 to 1982, where his students included composer Hsiung-Zee Wong, and also worked at the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills. He moved to New York in 1983 and received a Bessie in 1988 and in 1989 a Composer Fellowship from the NY Foundation for the Arts.

Tyranny was a contributor for AllMusic, reviewing albums and creating biographies for many notable contemporary artists.

According to Kyle Gann in the Village Voice, Tyranny had "Cecil Taylor's keyboard energy [and] Morton Feldman's ear." "The most original aspect of [his] works," wrote Gann, "is the way they create continuity: they're tonal, yet rigorously asymmetrical. They satisfy the ear without letting it take anything for granted. They evolve...with the labyrinthine irreversibility of deep psychic forces." In another Voice article, Gann was lyrical in his evocation of Tyranny's virtuosity: "God plays the piano through this man. Science cannot explain the speed with which trillions of inspired brain impulses zip through his...hands, resulting in note-perfect works...the 1988 Kitchen improv-with-delay [The Intermediary Following Traces of the Song]...I called 'the most inspired piano performance I've ever heard.' It still is. At his schmaltziest ("Sunrise or Sunset in Texas") he's like Keith Jarrett on an extremely good day. At his best, it's like listening to Ives improvise 'Hawthorne' from the Concord Sonata." [9]

In October 2020, Just for the Record: Conversations With and About "Blue" Gene Tyranny, a documentary film directed by David Bernabo, premiered at the TUSK Festival 2020. [10] In a review of the film for The Wire, Joshua Minsoo Kim wrote, "Hearing Tyranny talk and learning how he lived his life encourages one to go the same way." [11]

Tyranny died in hospice in Long Island City, Queens, on December 12, 2020, of complications of diabetes. [12] [13]

In David Bernabo's documentary film Just for the Record: Conversations With and About ‘Blue’ Gene Tyranny, Tyranny said music was a source of solace, but also a means “of deeply informing myself that there’s another world. Music is my way of being in the world.” [14]

Discography

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carla Bley</span> American jazz musician

Carla Bley is an American jazz composer, pianist, organist and bandleader. An important figure in the free jazz movement of the 1960s, she is perhaps best known for her jazz opera Escalator over the Hill, as well as a book of compositions that have been performed by many other artists, including Gary Burton, Jimmy Giuffre, George Russell, Art Farmer, John Scofield and her ex-husband Paul Bley.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Steve Swallow</span> American jazz bassist and composer

Steve Swallow is an American jazz bassist and composer, known for his collaborations with Jimmy Giuffre, Gary Burton, and Carla Bley. He was one of the first jazz double bassists to switch entirely to electric bass guitar.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Leroy Jenkins (musician)</span> American composer and violinist (1932–2007)

Leroy Jenkins was an American composer and violinist/violist.

<i>Time/Life</i> 2016 studio album /Live album by Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra

Time/Life is an album by Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra arranged by composer and pianist Carla Bley and released on the Impulse! label in 2016. It features two tracks from Haden's final live performance with the Orchestra along with additional studio recordings completed after his death.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Paul Bley</span> Canadian jazz pianist

Paul Bley, CM was a jazz pianist known for his contributions to the free jazz movement of the 1960s as well as his innovations and influence on trio playing and his early live performance on the Moog and ARP synthesizers. His music has been described by Ben Ratliff of the New York Times as "deeply original and aesthetically aggressive". Bley's prolific output includes influential recordings from the 1950s through to his solo piano recordings of the 2000s.

Lovely Music is an American record label devoted to new American music. Based in New York City, the label was founded in 1978 by Mimi Johnson, an outgrowth of her nonprofit production company Performing Artservices Inc. It is one of the most important and longest running labels focusing exclusively on new music and has released over 100 recordings on LP, CD, and videocassette.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Michael Mantler</span> Austrian jazz trumpeter and composer

Michael Mantler is an Austrian avant-garde jazz trumpeter and composer of contemporary music.

<i>Escalator over the Hill</i> 1971 studio album by Carla Bley and Paul Haines

Escalator over the Hill is mostly referred to as a jazz opera, but it was released as a "chronotransduction", with "words by Paul Haines, adaptation and music by Carla Bley, production and coordination by Michael Mantler", performed by the Jazz Composer's Orchestra.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Guy Barker</span> English jazz trumpeter and composer

Guy Jeffrey Barker, is an English jazz trumpeter and composer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Prime Movers (Michigan band)</span>

The Prime Movers were an American blues band based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States, which was formed in 1965. The band originally consisted of Michael Erlewine, Dan Erlewine, Robert Sheff (keyboards), Robert Vinopal (bass), and Michael "Spider" Wynn (drums). Vinopal left soon after the band's formation and was replaced by Jack Dawson. Wynn left a short time later and was replaced by James Osterberg, who would later become famous as Iggy Pop. When he joined the Prime Movers Osterberg took the name "Iggy", from his previous band The Iguanas.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Peter Gordon (composer)</span> Musical artist

Peter Gordon is an American saxophonist, clarinetist, pianist and experimental composer, whose influences include jazz, disco, funk, rock, opera, classical and world music. He has released several albums and composed scores for film and theater, and he has also toured and re-interpreted the music of Arthur Russell, on whose compositions he played, as well as that of Robert Ashley.

Maggi Payne is an American composer, flutist, video artist, recording engineer/editor, and historical remastering engineer who creates electroacoustic, instrumental, vocal works, and works involving visuals.

Love of Life Orchestra (LOLO) is an experimental music group formed by Peter Gordon in New York in April 1977. The band is associated with the 1970s New York downtown music scene.

<i>Relativity Suite</i> 1973 studio album by Don Cherry and the Jazz Composers Orchestra

Relativity Suite is a free-jazz LP by Don Cherry on Jazz Composer's Orchestra Records which was released in 1973.

<i>Dinner Music</i> 1977 studio album by Carla Bley

Dinner Music is an album by American composer, bandleader and keyboardist Carla Bley recorded in 1976 and released on the Watt/ECM label in 1977.

<i>Musique Mecanique</i> 1979 studio album by Carla Bley

Musique Mecanique is an album by American composer, bandleader and keyboardist Carla Bley recorded in 1978 and released on the Watt/ECM label in 1979.

<i>Abandoned Garden</i> 1995 studio album by Michael Franks

Abandoned Garden is an album by American vocalist Michael Franks. Released in 1995 by Warner Bros. Records, it was Franks' thirteenth studio album and his final album of new material with Warner Bros.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wolfgang Puschnig</span> Austrian jazz musician and composer (born 1956)

Wolfgang Puschnig is an Austrian jazz musician and composer.

<i>Life Goes On</i> (Carla Bley album) 2020 studio album by Carla Bley / Andy Sheppard / Steve Swallow

Life Goes On is a studio album by American composer and pianist Carla Bley with saxophonist Andy Sheppard and bass guitarist Steve Swallow released by the ECM label on February 14, 2020. The album consists of three suites divided into shorter segments.

<i>Solo</i> (Leroy Jenkins album) 1998 live album by Leroy Jenkins

Solo is a live album by violinist / composer Leroy Jenkins. It was recorded in October 1992 at the Contemporary Arts Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and was released by Lovely Music in 1998. The album documents a solo concert that featured nine original compositions, some of which had appeared in his solo performances for years but were never previously recorded, plus pieces by Dizzy Gillespie and John Coltrane. This is Jenkins's second solo record, the first being Solo Concert.

References

  1. "Steve Smith, "'Blue' Gene Tyranny, Whose Music Melded Genres, Dies at 75"". New York Times. Retrieved 2020-12-22.
  2. Smith, Steve (23 December 2020). "'Blue' Gene Tyranny, Whose Music Melded Genres, Dies at 75". The New York Times.
  3. ""Blue" Gene Tyranny". lovely.com. Retrieved 2018-02-07.
  4. ""Blue" Gene Tyranny (1945–2020)". www.artforum.com. Retrieved 2021-08-02.
  5. ""Blue" Gene Tyranny Was Texas's Greatest Piano Prodigy". Texas Monthly. 2021-06-26. Retrieved 2021-08-02.
  6. ""Blue" Gene Tyranny: Degrees of Freedom Found". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2021-08-02.
  7. Fred Seibert. "On the road with Carla Bley (and a big band of musical geniuses and misfits)". Fred Seibert Dot Com. Retrieved September 12, 2021.
  8. Smith, Steve (23 December 2020). "'Blue' Gene Tyranny, Whose Music Melded Genres, Dies at 75". The New York Times.
  9. Gann, Kyle (October 2, 1990). ""Blue" Gene Tyranny, The Intermediary, procedural score, realization for piano, synthesizer & playback." AllMusic.
  10. "FILM PROGRAMME - TUSK Festival". tuskfestival.com. Retrieved 2020-09-10.
  11. Kim, Joshua Minsoo(February 2021). "Just For the Record: Conversations with and about “Blue” Gene Tyranny". The Wire. No. 444. p. 75 – via Exact Editions. (subscription required)
  12. Smith, Steve (23 December 2020). "'Blue' Gene Tyranny, Whose Music Melded Genres, Dies at 75". The New York Times.
  13. "@unseen_worlds "Rest in Power "Blue" Gene Tyranny, Robert Sheff, Joe Gantic. 1945-2020". instagram.com. Archived from the original on 2021-12-24. Retrieved 2020-12-13.
  14. Smith, Steve (23 December 2020). "'Blue' Gene Tyranny, Whose Music Melded Genres, Dies at 75". The New York Times.

Listening