"Real Life and The Movies: Volume 1" Liner Notes by "Blue" Gene Tyranny

"Real Life and The Movies: Volume 1" Liner Notes by "Blue" Gene Tyranny


1. Theme Music for Sally Kellman's "I Was A Teenage Assassin for the C.I.A."

She was his translator. She was to be his poisoner. But she changed her mind.

Yes, it's all true. Sally has the newspaper clippings and has made a wonderful pop comedy political piece based on this information about the C.I.A. hiring a young woman to become Castro's "translator" in the early '60s. Her real job was to feed him poison that would slowly make him crazed, and then, dead. But she decided "oh, the hell with it," and flushed the stuff. This song is a memory of the '60s Detroit Motown style, where every week or so a new and elegant variation was made, commenting upon the previous week's song (a real family business), the telegraphing locomotive bass line, a drone with internal motion, producing the world's most Hill-and-Dale'd 45's.

Steve Mackay – saxophones
Michael Richards – guitar
Jerry Myers – drums
"Blue" – keyboards

Recorded at Army Street Studios, Jim Keeler, Engineer, 1980


2. The Bust (from music for Megan Terry's "Viet Rock")

LBJ throws empty beer cans at his cattle from a passing limo while bebop musicians in transit interpret it all after midnight at the jazz club under the icehouse.

Bo Diddley and Lyndon B. Johnson meet on a street corner in Texas. I'm 14, and the drunk cop shines the light in my eyes, and says, "Where you goin' this time of night? Maybe I oughta run ya in." (Sorry about the dialect). Cop drives off, laughing, to join his good ol' cop buddies for beers and poker at midnight in back of the icehouse on the corner of the block where I live. Below the icehouse is a really underground jazz club which I sneak into when I can get away with it. Musicians traveling from the South to California, getting arrested by the same cops, who take money for your ticket and their pocket. Meanwhile, Lyndon streaks across the Texas plain, scares the cows in his Caddy, crazy frustrated drunk (not the friendly kind), thinking, "Why, oh, why can't people understand? Why, oh, I say who oh why can't some people..." Goodbye, LBJ. Ladybird's airline, shipping to Vietnam, is doing just fine.

This piece was originally composed as an interlude for the Ann Arbor, MI, production of playwright Megan Terry's anti-war Viet Rock, with music performed by Billy C. and the Sunshine. Subsequent performances of this piece were made for N.E.T. (National Education Network) television, and in several rock gigs including the Grand D Ballroom in Detroit during a warm-up gig for The Mothers of Invention.

The tape part opens with a police siren, a policeman's voice (punk rocker Mike Richards) saying "O.K. buster, this is a bust," followed by wildly processed and distorted loops of then president Lyndon Baines Johnson "Oh why oh why can't people understand?...." Other rushing cascades of tones thunder and madly spew from the tape. A simple four-chord tune chimes in merrily, underscored by a common rhythmic cliché, the "shave and a haircut...two-bits" pattern heard all the time throughout the U.S. when an impatient motorist is trying to signal someone he is waiting for, or heard as a joking door knock, and as the fundamental rhythm in many of Bo Diddley's songs.

Vivian Shevitz – bass
Pete Kahn, John Littlejohn – saxes
Carter Threlkeld (Buzz) – trumpet
Dennis O'Brien (Cody Sparks) – guitar
Richard Dishman – drums
"Blue" – Wurlitzer electric piano
Micheal Richards – police voice
Lyndon Baines Johnson – presidential voice

Recorded live for N.E.T. television, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1967


3. Theme Music for Andrew Lugg's "Black Forest Trading Post"

There is the eternal or at least unchanging postcard front of The Trading Post, whose guests, coming in by the backdoor, are mammoths, the planet Saturn, skyscrapers, whose intentions God only knows, but, one could say, are somewhere out there...

Ana Perez – guitar
"Blue" – keyboards, electronics, Chamberlin

Recorded at Center for Contemporary Music, 1976, some re-processing 1981

4. Music for Pat Olesko's "Nudes Reel"

She rises early in the morning. Gradually faster, she dresses and tries things on. Retreats for a moment from her wind-up toy existence, then starts all over again. Tristesse.

Paul Robinson – fiddle
"Blue" – Serge synthesizer, vocoder

Recorded at C.C.M. 1977, some re-processing 1981

5. Three Begins

Two readings of three proportional cuttings of hundreds of samples, which can be played forward and reverse in three speeds, their interplay and mixings describing the resultant illusion (no resolution) of complementary internal and external time. This piece was originally played with a reading of Dick Higgin's poem by the same name. Something about ducks and milkmaids and staircases. Frankie Mann says that some of the best music in the country is made by teenagers with cassette machines in their attics. I had only a crusty reel-to-reeler, and was 13, but the idea is the same, the direct transfer.

This piece was my first for audiotape, and it shows my early love for everyday and environmental sounds (as distinct from the sounds of musique concrète and electronic pieces). This affection would later lead to such compositions as Country Boy Country Dog (1967), The White Night Riot (1979), He Was Here (1998), and the procedural How to Discover Music in the Sounds of Your Daily Life (1967).

The original sounds were gathered from a collection of recordings made from 1958 to 1961 on a heavy but portable Tandberg stereo tape recorder, and an equally cumbersome World War II vintage steel wire recorder. These sounds included noisy rhythmic improvisations called "kitchen music" because the instruments were all household items like ceramic and metal pots, pans, oven grills, glasses, Venetian blinds, cutlery, and so on; there were also traffic noises, wind, solo animal vocalizations, and several unidentifiable sources.

At a presentation entitled "new music/new poetry" staged in my hometown of San Antonio, TX, readings of several modern literary works were interlaced with contemporary chamber pieces (although the music was in no sense an accompaniment or setting of the texts). One of the new prose works was Dick Higgins' droll Three Begins, with images of milkmaids and ducks.

Adopting the idea of "threeness," I cut the collection of sounds into three tape lengths, the inexact proportions of "long," "medium," and "short." For humorous contrast, social sounds like out-of-tune badly recorded violins playing a Christmas carol, and a radio voice declaring "it's just like the proverbial daisy" were added to the natural sounds. The tape shreds were tossed in a box, freely mixed up, randomly retrieved, and spliced together with no regard as to whether they were in the correct direction ("heads" or "tails").

For subsequent performances and a retrospective of works issued on the cassette by Fun Music, "threeness" was interpreted as three speeds "times 2," "times one (normal speed)," and "times 1/4." These three tempos with their consequent pitch shifts were played back on three separate tape machines and freely accessed by a mixing performer.

"Blue" – electronics
Recorded in San Antonio, Texas 1958, some re-processing C.C.M. 1981. Special thanks to Philip Krumm

6. The White Night Riot

Except for the TV audio, this recording was made on the run from the cops who were beating up on anyone. An older man was kicked by cops after he fell, another man helping him had his hip broken, and fire trucks deliberately charged into crowds, not in pursuit of a fire. I saw the second, and was told about the first. The fire was first inside when the outrageous verdict was announced, giving Dan White seven years (actually reduced by parole procedures) for killing in cold blood George Moscone, the liberal mayor, and Harvey Milk, the outspoken and lovingly gay city supervisor. Then the fire was outside, as police cars burned in front of City Hall, in righteous indignation. The humor in the gradually fragmenting speech of the media, who were making the mistake of trying to come up with a reasonable, or filtered, description of the situation, is amplified here. All sounds in this four-part work modulate continuously in a mono-to-binaural distribution, which describes the perceptual change in the sense of space that night, and physically, the ebb and flow of the people together and apart. There are low-frequency peaks, heard as untranslated signals, the internal and external pulses felt in the fully awakened (for better or worse) excitement, the 8 cps of the Earth, cop beepers, whistles, and body gestures that were actually present and amplified here by electronics. Some police in the following weeks wore Free Dan White T-shirts. He is like so many All-American boys who read romantic novels, excel in sports, grades, and everything except humanity, who kill themselves, or their girlfriends, and nobody seems to understand why. This society encourages people to want to be validated by measures outside themselves, thereby creating its own criminals (its nemesis) and dividing the people among each other, and dividing each person by the illusion of an extra "self." It has got to change, fundamentally.

Organized in four sections, the piece alternately presents the real sounds of the night contrasted with the "reasoning" attempted by the media (which includes various language anomalies).

In the "real sounds" sections, the audio is modulated in a mono-to-binaural distribution, which simulates the ebb and flow of people moving together and apart, and also describes perceptual changes in the sense of space experienced under stress. There are also low frequency peaks that were present and amplified electronically.

In the "reasoning" sections, there is a kind of droll humor as well as political commentary achieved by gradually fragmenting and collaging contradictory statements and interpretations.

Excerpts from this piece and Tyranny's Harvey Milk (Portrait) (1979) were used for the dances The History of Collage (premiered in Cleveland, 1988) and The History of Collage Revisited (premiered in Cardiff, Wales, 1990), choreographed by Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane.

"Blue" – electronics

Recorded in San Francisco, California May 21-22, 1979. A companion piece to The White Night Riot is Harvey Milk/Portrait on Lovely Music/Vital Records VR 101-06.



7. Sound Module from "Back in Texas Again"

To be played at the same time as a theatre realization of the graph piece based on
artifacts and physical patterns from your home state. Tdistance and the patterns you have covered and uncovered since then. For Texas, I remember the lightning storms on a cloudless midday which would rattle the house like a cannon blast in your very own backyard, the funky rainy day and my uncle's ranch (away) somewhere. The original graph score with drawings, photos, maps, etc. got burned in the fire in 1975, but someday I'll do another. From the series How Things That Can't Exist May Exist (1958-present).

David Kapalian – electric violin
Dennis O'Brien (Cody Sparks) – guitar
Richard Dishman – drums
"Blue" – vibraphone
Recorded at home studio 1966 music/1967 natural sounds, some re-processing C.C.M. 1981

8. Music for David White's "33 Yoyo Tricks" simultaneously with Closed Transmission in Several Widths

The elegant prize-winning short with yoyo champ Danny Volk is here placed in an imaginary setting of lonely data transmissions over a vast or infinitely small range. When I went to Saturday afternoon movies in Texas, there was always a yoyo contest, followed by Flash Gordon and Gene Autry. The yoyo champ, who is so elegant and punk in this wonderful short film, is Danny Volk. I tried recording the actual sound of his yoyo, but tracing the passing gesture on the synthesizer recreated the illusion more articulately (the joke that a recorded yoyo just doesn't sound like a yoyo should). Lonely computers and slightly nuts computer talk across a universe scaled in various sizes by the size of its self-referential feedback loop – ear to ear, planet to planet, infinite connections. One imaginary setting for this conversation is a comfortable cool space, luminescent white and green, somewhere. "Talk to me Henry, hello basic agreement." Another, not imaginary but remembered (so it might as well be imaginary), setting is late night when his talk of flying saucers outside the window was just a ruse to get me in his bed. I loved his overture. Both computer tracks were recorded independently, so any coordination between the sides is purely coincidental.

"Blue" – electronics, RMI keyboard, IBM 7090 computer
Tom Schunior – programmer

"Tricks" recorded at C.C.M. 1976, "Transmission" recorded at the Logic of Computers Group, Ann Arbor, 1966

9. Pals/Touch and Action-At-A-Distance

This composition is built from three simultaneous duets, each of which presents an apparent illusion.

In the first duet, two close friends perform a version of the classic J.B. Rhine extra-sensory perception (E.S.P.) test. In this case, instead of using abstract visual patterns on cards, the participants take alternate turns at guessing which of five statements they have written about each other's activities, preferences, attitudes, and other intimate or personal behavior. Each performer writes down these five brief descriptions (ideally, single words) and exchanges them. When either performer makes a correctly matching response, his or her partner makes a single sound, like a fingersnap, handclap, sigh of relief, and so on, which audibly signifies the event. The listener can assume that an invisible transmission is taking place. In live performance or recording situation, each performer is picked up by a highly directional microphone, so that the sound field is double monophonic (rater than stereo).

The second duet is recorded near a single environmental source (stream, wind, any other-than-human sound) utilizing two microphones separated widely in space and/or time. Each of the channels then gates the amplitude of the other; each channel is split into a "program" and a "control-voltage" and the two channels are cross-modulated. The control-voltage is processed so that it accumulates and builds up like an obsessive memory (e.g., through an analog tape loop with the "erase" head covered on the recording machine). The listener hears both a unusually wide but continuous and unmodified stereo field mixed with strange, aperiodic, seemingly spontaneous tiny bursts. This duet can be pre-recorded for playback during a concert performance, or broadcast via radio microphones.

For the third duet, two microphones are moved gradually from a relatively enclosed space to a relatively wide open space. In the inside space, a feedback situation is set up between the mikes and the monitor loudspeakers, so that when the mikes are moved at varying speeds and angles, differing resonant nodes (Eigentones) create momentary melodic gestures, and describe the harmonic shape of that space. The electronic gating matrix, described in The Shining Net (Archaeo-acoustics), is set up to create bell-like sounds that occur from the interference of these standing waves and nodes, like a net of shining points. As the microphones are moved this feedback situation is slowly dissipated and the microphones pick up the sounds of the other two duets, and/or the larger space.

As all three of three duets are presented simultaneously, the listener has the illusion of being able to perceive both the near and distant spaces at the same time.

Three general questions occurring during these experiments were:
1. Does knowledge depend upon certain ideal conditions and just one ideal observer?
2. Does E.S.P. increase in confined conditions (e.g. an atmosphere of sine tone feedback, as in tinnitus) or more open conditions (e.g. an atmosphere of white noise)?
3. Which behaviors or relationships are possible in differing states of matter (solid, liquid, gas, plasma)?

Johnathan Doff – voice
"Blue" – voice, electronics

Recorded at C.C.M. 1972 (feedback), 1978 (voices), 1979 (live mix). Special thanks to Sam Ashley and John Bischoff

10. Remembering (One track from a time travel piece)

The gradual internal visualization of a dear friend's face. The electronics are
automatic and on-going as they describe the internal shifts of amplitude, phase,
frequency and time which seem to have their own gestures and “opinions.” Spoken and internal language, and the Doppler shift in between. An infinite net between your brain and your face to the rest of the so-called real world. As you travel in time, you inflect differently, a transduction, a change of form without a change of energy, or use the same gesture and perform it with differing content, even for the brief moment going from your brain to a mouthed sound. If we are to believe that picture, playing speech like you play an instrument, so fine to do what is called remembering. Passionate love for a friend, and gradually his face appears. The video image: digital image of clocked time floating in peaceful blue.

"Blue" – voice, electronics

Recorded at home studio (backyard and inside), Oakland 1974, some re-processing C.C.M. 1981. This track was mixed with other music for "My Song" in Mary Ashley's video series "Klahoya".

Special thanks to Kenn Beckman for formatting these notes.