"Blue" Gene Tyranny "Out of the Blue", Lyrics and Liner Notes

"Blue" Gene Tyranny "Out of the Blue", Lyrics and Liner Notes

"Blue" Gene Tyranny, 1978, photo by Pat Kelley


Hey Baby,
Hey maybe I'm forgetting to say
That I stayed with you because I wanted to
And you were so very kind
You listened to my troubling mind
Said leave all that hist'ry behind
And deal with life as it's offered you

Hey Honey,
You know we'll treat each other just fine
Oh, if we make the space
To have the grace of a natural scene
I will listen to you
You will listen to me
And make it up in our own time

You know the next time might be your time
To “love and honor”, to take the bother
To see this thing through
Is that what friends are here for?

Dear Companion,
We could be in Arizona or France,
What will the world be like
when we see each other
Free of all circumstance?
What difference does it make?
Why don't you take a break from
Whatever puts the pressure on you?

Oh, listen,
Can you move back to before you were born
To this time and place and
Having to trace who you are day after day?
There must have been the light
Before the stories took away the sight
We're not attached or separate in space


Patrice MangetPatrice Manget

"I remember rehearsing 'Next Time Might Be Your Time' with Blue on the piano and really working hard to get all the lyrics of one line sung in time to take a breath and plunge into the next line. He laughed when I pointed out he hadn't left me much time to take a breath, saying he hadn't thought about that because his fingers didn't have to breathe from one measure to the next!"

– Patrice Manget


This composition is one of several in which popular music style material was expanded with new music techniques - including the songs in "No Job, No Warm, No Nothing" (1974), music for Phil Harmonic's "Stars Over San Francisco" (1976), and the music for Robert Ashley's opera-for-TV "Perfect Lives" (1978 - 1982).  The initial instrumental, scored for tenor, alto, and baritone saxophones, woodwinds (flute, clarinets, bassoon), electric guitars, bass, drums, clavinet, keyboard synthesizer and tack piano, is a mixture of contrasting musical sections (discursive, tender, and aggressive) which are combined in various ways.  This mix of emotions, not often copacetic nor complementary, was inspired by a reading of footballer David Kopay's coming-out-of-the-closet book.

The three dynamic types exist as a behavioral language "for David K." to take on when engaged in the football world, but obviously he is not stuck with them for his actions and speech.  The initial title of the song, "David Kopay (Portrait)", seemed to imply that those dynamics are him, and since that is not the case, the title was changed.

Using the same musical material, a "version for memory and memoryless keyboards"* was created in 1996.  Various gestures, short phrases from the melodies, repeating harmonies, and so on, are spontaneously chosen in live performance, and played (inputted) to a computer sequencer keyboard.  These elements then continue to loop in a contrapuntal, hocketing manner (like an obsessive, rhythmic memory) while the soloist improvises spontaneously on a "memoryless" piano.  This combination creates a rich contrapuntal duo that can be directed by a single performer onto many emotional and conceptual pathways.

Memoryless keyboard simply means non-synthesizer or computer keyboard (acoustic piano, organ, etc.).  An instrument that doesn't have memory built-in. Memoryless playing is completely spontaneous performance in which a musician using simple materials (a few tones or even just sounds in no fixed relationship) reveals the music of the subconscious, avoiding habit and playing only in the present. There are many ways to achieve this and it takes nerve, but trust develops over time that this built-in musical unfolding will show its ability to always amaze the performer and consequently the audience also. In my mind, this is the finest kind of music making, better than a so-called religious experience because you don't have to believe anything to "get there".  Just intense        attention and listening like in a good conversation.  The role of composers in encouraging this kind of spontaneous playing is to provide the simple materials – their slogan could be "We make the cars but we don't tell you where to drive them."

Peter Gordon
Peter Gordon, 1976, photo by Pat Kelley

"I first met Blue when I was a graduate student at Mills College. Although Blue was on the faculty, I never took a course with him, but we were part of the same musical community and were friends. This was an environment steeped in experimental music, but we both had performed over the years in various rock music groups. This was clearly a part of our musical psyche, but was kept subdued within the new music environment, which was conceptually driven and rather austere from the listener’s perspective.

We produced a concert in November 1976 at the University Art Museum in Berkeley which was titled 'Trust in Rock'. Over a period of three days, we presented compositions by 'Blue' Gene, Craig Hazen and myself which was performed by an ensemble with rock instrumentation, and included songs and extended pieces.

When Lovely Music Records invited 'Blue' Gene and me to contribute albums for their first set of releases, much of the source material was the music from 'Trust in Rock'. (My own album, 'Star Jaws', was recorded around the same time as 'Out of the Blue', uses the same musicians, and was released concurrently.)

Regarding my role as co-producer: Blue had been a recording engineer in the multitrack studio at Mills, in addition to performing his faculty duties. A longtime practitioner of electronic music, Blue is also a master recording engineer and mixer. 'Out of the Blue', features his gorgeous music, but is also a clear demonstration of his studio artistry. As co-producer, my job was to help conceptualize, to encourage progress and make gentle suggestions, to help find the musicians, and, mostly, to let the music flow."

– Peter Gordon


He is in the blue distance
He is getting nearer
She is in the blue distance
She is getting so clear

(I don't know where they came from
I don't know how we got here
I just turned my back and suddenly
You were here)

Oh boy, sometimes it seems like
it takes forever
And then with your friends
It takes no effort at all
Oh it could be a past hurt
Attachment illusion
That makes distance between me
Leading a double life

On the other hand, you know
It takes some language
An agreement for the moment
Making dreams ring true
So with the resistance
Comes an angel's assistance
Bringing it closer and closer
Leading a double life

She is in the blue distance
She's a visiting wonder
He is in the blue distance
He's a dream come true

(Am I sleeping and waking
Or just turning over
A cellular wonder
Leading a double life?
A cellular wonder
Leading a double life?)


Scored for voices and electro-acoustic instruments.  This piece is a procedural score with harmonic, melodic, rhythmic, and verbal materials that may assemble in different ways.

The first realization (1976) was made for this record.  The uniting structure that underlies both text and music is the Doppler Effect (simultaneous amplitude, phase, frequency and time modulation) presented as a metaphor for the development of consciousness (with the unchanging sense of presence as "home base").  This first recorded version begins with the sound of a train passing that exhibits all the characteristics of the Doppler Effect; various acoustic instruments were added to emphasize the translation from natural to acoustic sound.

The text, written by the composer in the lighthearted style of a letter from an unnamed friend, discusses the development of consciousness over three "sizes" of time:  (1) over thousands of years (based on the work of Julian Jaynes), (2) within a person's lifetime from childhood to adult perceptual illusions (based on the work of Jean Piaget and others), and (3) at micro-levels (e.g., involuntary events, sudden feelings/thoughts).  An echoing chorus samples parts of the spoken text and "sets them to music".  There are jokes about playing in bands, about not being able to get a tune out of your head, about illusions like the clock which seems to slow down or speed up depending on your mood, and so on.

The music develops through a tree of "branching harmonics":  the basic progression (I, V, IV, I, II#, IV) is constantly transformed as the harmonic of one fundamental root becomes the new fundamental root and generates new harmonics (and chord voicings), and so on.  This process seems to be one of natural growth and spacetime distortion.  These harmonies are heard both in their steady development and in non-metric "smears" - increasingly longer "trains" of chords that pass through the stereo space (emulating the actual train heard at the outset of the piece).

From these harmonies, simple signature melodies are generated, and gradually more complex rhythms are generated (in "current" and "accumulating" modes), and the emotional "meaning" or tension of the constant drone changes as it is surrounded by new harmonies.

There have been several other realizations of this score since the original.  In 1986, a new rhythmic text was tried out with stories in three sizes (biographical, historical, micro-level) with tableaux vivante (kitchen scene, sitting on a ranch fence, etc.) beautifully staged by the Otrabanda Theatre Co.  In 1991, an instrumental version for piano, marimba and vibraphone was made using the melodic, ascending harmonic, and rhythmic material.  Also in 1991, a kind of rock version for piano and two electric guitars playing the "current rhythm" and "accumulating rhythm" parts was created. In 1996, the chart of "branching harmonics" was used as the wellspring for a piano improvisation with dancers Trisha Brown and Steve Paxton. In 2002 this same chart was the basis of a piano improvisation on the CD Take Your Time.

The piece begins with the sound of a railroad train crossing from side to side.  The Doppler effect it produces is imitated by the sounds of acoustic instruments, a country fiddle, cello harmonics, etc.  The following text is accompanied (electronic keyboards, guitar, expanding analog sequencer) by the gradually "branching harmonies" from the fundamental resonance (a drone on G which is held throughout the piece).  The Narrator delivers the basic letter in a free speaking style while the Chorus samples that text, sets it to music, and re-assembles the words to give them new meaning.  Later this same Chorus begins to anticipate the words of the Narrator.


Dear Blue Gene,

As I sit here writing you this letter I'm listening to the sound of the midnight train as it moves and changes across the hills.  It reminds me of you as it travels to the back of my mind.  Now that's a pretty weird idea.

I don't know why it should remind me of you - sometimes I just listen and it doesn't remind me of anything.  It seems to create the space and time in which it moves ... it comes from nowhere.  Anyway I'm getting off the subject.  I really wrote to tell you the bar we used to play at has changed hands again.  Do you remember how everyone got together and danced until dawn?  Just like a religion.  It took an hour to get the tunes out of our head.

The we got stoned and in that presence we'd talk about our crazy ideas.  I remember you said that a child growing up, the growth of the feeling of being inside yourself, and the sound changing over space and time were similar experiences - their motions had the same shape. Oh boy.

Hey Blue Gene ... moving across my mind again ...
Hey Blue ... midnight train leavin' ...
Across my mind ...
Hey Blue ... why does it remind me of you? ...
My mind ...
Hey Blue ... why does it remind me ...
why does it remind me? Blue ...
Hey mind ... moving mind again
Leavin' on ...
Hey Blue Gene ... leavin' home ...
my mind ...
Blue ...
Ah ...

Speaking of younger people, your cousin is growing up fast.  When he was four years old, he was sucking his thumb and waving his arms.  And after a year, he was grabbing hold of blankets and rugs pulling things toward himself, seeing how close he could get.  We must have seemed like pictures on TV.  Soon he started talking and opened his mouth wide to describe something big, breathing heavily in and out.  To him, each breath was like a thought.  When he was one year old, someone would yawn in the room and he wouldn't.  He described things that weren't anywhere near him.  An idea he heard one day, he would describe as his own on the next.

When he was two, or three-and-a-half years old, he'd talk to his imaginary companion.  Now he's twelve and imagines everything connected to everything else.  The more defined a situation gets, the more he spaces out.  I guess he wonders if his life is supposed to be a story.  Of course, he was five when out of the blue, he started to speak Polish and recall his past lives.  That certainly wasn't in the books.

Sometimes you imagine you're in the music and sometimes you're apart from it.  I remember the time the band gave you your name "Blue" Gene.  There was the feeling that trouble was built into you, like they say, in your genes.  Both you and I know, you're no victim of circumstance.

[electronic imitation of train crossing]

Hey Blue ... leavin' circumstance ...

do you ... do you remember?
Do ... you ... mind?
Circumstance ... dancing ...
and that means ... a long winter ...
took you an hour to get the tunes
out of your head ...
Hey Blue ... is that the only way?
the tunes inside of you ...
circumstance tunes the inside of you ...
is that the only way?
someone thinking how beautiful
out of your head ...
one tune ... blue tune ...
out there ...

[instrumental interlude]

You get your name and describe inside your mind.

Of course, you do get obsessed and at those times what you want to know gets toward you.  How close can you get?  (Ghosts appear mostly in February.)  How do you describe something which is invisible and unknowable?  When the train goes by, what should I pay attention to?  The sound, or what I see, or what goes on in my mind, or maybe all three of them at once?  (Three guesses - a coincidence, a connection outside, a connection inside.)  It's so beautiful to see someone thinking.

Consider 4 billion people walking around with slightly different things in their heads at any given moment.  When you're in this country, all images that support living in the city disappear.

The day before you left on that midnight train was the day we made up that weird theory about a history of consciousness.  Of course it was just as arbitrary as any history, and started 12,000 years in the past - the people are peaceful, there is no government, and nothing is an example of anything.  There are no words for past, present, future or madness. It's always the first time.

However, there is a voice that appears to each of them, barely distinct, softly in-between the other sounds of living - one side of  the brain in each person is slowly sending pulses through to the other side.  It is inevitable, according to this ordered-up theory, that an imaginary space somewhere in the back of your mind is occupied by someone called "I" that floats around in the same space it has created.

Then we skipped a few thousand years to watch that unidentified inner voice become embodied in the voice of the ruler.  Statues were in the center of town just like today -    images of ancestors with large eyes.  Eye to eye contact.  Time ceases to exist.  A younger and older man, a younger and older woman.  Eye to eye contact.  Mother and child.  When you talk about love, everyone's an authority.

Eye to eye do ... I ... mind? ...
Eye to eye when you were born ...
Eye to eye time ceases to exist ...
Eye to eye what's your name? ...
Eye to eye ... hey what's the story?
Do you exist?  I'm inside and outside
Difference is an illusion ...

Younger ... older ... crazy
Sunlight in front of your eyes ...
Sunlight inside ...
Tell the future ...
Sunlight , rain on the water ...
Flashing inside ...
December's past ...

[instrumental interlude]

8000 or maybe 6000 years ago when young women were possessed oracles and older men were hot-blooded prophets foretelling the future, their message was delivered in steady rhythmic verses - always the same rhythm no matter what language.  From one side of the brain to the other, from invisible heaven to foggy earth.  This was sunlight inside and outside without yawning or blinking.  You can send your consciousness anywhere.

And in the prophet's eyes, the ideas on the periphery of his vision frame what he sees – the possibilities are beads of light constantly changing intensity.  He imagines the experience is always the same and always entirely out of control ... somewhere out there. (Every 11 and 11 hundredths years, there is a cycle of increased sunspot activity.  Every 11 and 1/10ths years, there is a cycle of mass human excitability. If something went one way and the space were somehow closed off, the idea was that something had to go the other way.  There are so many cycles, you could just as well see the changes as random.)

Someone called it peaceful co-existence, the way the waves travel through the same medium, the water, and crossed through each other, transparently without destruction.

The rest of the story, Blue, was that the outside voices began to be heard inside 4100 or maybe 3700 years ago.  People started to write laws down, and make treaties.  The word was pictured in sets of two, and the ideas of history, motives, and strategies were dreamed up.  These went along with war, life stories, and authorities from outer space.

On the periphery of this country, someone made up the notion that you could change yourself by changing your consciousness, without connections, beyond contradictions. (His blood pressure was highest at three in the afternoon, and lowest at three in the morning.  When he started singing with his friends, someone would remember just the words and someone would remember just the tunes.

(Two points in space, and three types of connections.)  When they went out on a date, each of them imagined his and her mom and dad had come along.  A steady structure, a complete decision with only four moves.  Yes and no on the first possibility, yes and no on the other one. Did he need that image outside to have that feeling inside?

Ooooh ... oooh ... oooh

centered in space ...
happy to be doing ...
one more time to write ...
centered in space ...
centered and struggling and
changing your mind ...
who do you talk to?
Who you talk to is
what's ever a tune ...
centered and changing ...

hey what's your name?

Wanting a vision beyond consciousness, ...
centered and changing

hey what's your name?

Are you attached?
Do you see it coming?


Up to the sun ...
Here we talk ...
is that a separate sound?


I wonder if I have changed since I was young or has it always been this way?  I guess I want a vision beyond consciousness, the way a culture can take 20 years to catch up to what can occur in a flash to one person - someone who's done his thinking before he realizes it.  I can accept the way I pay attention to things even if every 96 minutes I get an urge to talk, eat, or kiss somebody.  Yes, just anybody, Blue.  And I start to pay attention to the miracles that I do know about.  You know I never set the alarm and I always wake up on time.  Even in a thunderstorm, my mother would wake up only when she heard her baby cry.  When I play a piece on the piano once, it goes on rehearsing by itself and it's easier to play the next time.  And there are the coincidences and the invisible ideas that reveal themselves anytime you start to go through the motions.  Are they really out there, Blue?

(Going to the center of town by calculated spirals which run down, going to the center of town randomly, all the energy is mysteriously conserved as the bird flies.)  From time to time, I feel another world growing up among the one I experience everyday, and it seems no conclusions can be drawn about anyone's eventual fate.  Sometimes I put my fingertips on the top of my eyes and apply pressure slightly.  Then the pressure is released, and flashes of light still remain floating among the forms that are shaped like networks.  That pressure to move the lights is the same as taking on any idea to move my body.  One side of the brain keeps rambling on to write you this letter, while the other side is setting it to rhythmic music, migrating from fundamental harmonics to the harmonics of those harmonics, building its own bridge.  A particle of light to a molecule to fluorescence to warmth to my body and its rhythms and back again.  We are not attached nor separate in space.  (Slipping in-between the pulses of consciousness, UFOs appear mostly in April coinciding with the sudden appearance and disappearance of stars.)

But anyway, it's always the first time.

Hey Blue Gene ... moving across my mind again ...
Hey Blue ... morning train leavin' ...
Across my mind ...

[sound of real train crossing from side to side once more]

[sound of digital imitation of train moving from side to side]

This train is lit by the luminescence of the town and the faint morning light, and the light it gives off. That light defines the area all around the train just as your love defines the way you see the life closest to you. Is that too corny, Blue?

Well, you know that's how we are here.

Write soon.


Kathy Morton Austin

"You are bringing back some old memories. I do remember you working on the album and, after all these years, I could still sing you whole sections of "Next Time Might Be Your Time"! Oddly, I can't remember the act of recording the narration, and not having a record player (is that what they used to call those things?), I can't verify that I was actually present and functioning at the time it was recorded.  I guess one needs proof of past existence, and I'll look forward to hearing the re-issue for that reason, as well as for the more obvious pleasure of hearing your music again.

My memory of you during the project is your focused energy at work at the CCM console, mixing over many hours and days, sometimes with the door open, allowing the beautiful music of the album to waft into the corridors, down the stairwell and even, perhaps on a good day, as far out as the pond.  I was deeply impressed, as we all were, how your music was unlike any other, but at the same time, had a natural universal appeal that could move people, and could very likely send you to the top of the charts.  We all knew, through that intense period of bringing the album to life, you were putting your heart and soul into it.  It's exciting that it's coming back to life again, and will waft beautifully through the corridors of old and new minds."

– Kathy Morton Austin

All notes and lyrics by “Blue” Gene Tyranny, except where otherwise attributed.