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"Blue" Gene Tyranny
Degrees Of Freedom Found

"Blue" Gene and Friends

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• PDF booklet with liner notes by "Blue" Gene Tyranny
• Instant Bandcamp download code

Recorded between 1963-2019, Degrees Of Freedom Found is a six CD set “Blue” Gene Tyranny hand selected from archival, live recordings, and brand new first recordings before his passing in 2020. Part new album, part retrospective, this box offers a fresh perspective on “Blue” Gene Tyranny’s musical legacy. Blue’s career defining moment, composing the music for Robert Ashley’s magnum opus, Perfect Lives, typifies the Buddha-like self-effacement of his musical life. Often lending a substantial supporting role to his friends’ more visible projects, Blue’s music under his own name blossomed in a more esoteric and highly personal manner outside of the spotlight. Across its many previously unreleased recordings, Degrees Of Freedom Found showcases a surprising, extroverted side of Blue’s music, alongside the virtuoso works of sensitive spirit for which New Music devotees have long revered him.


BEST NEW REISSUE Pitchfork Review by Joshua Minsoo Kim

"It’s the sort of music that leaves you in awe: a reminder that music always did the same for him."

Ranked #3, WIRE Archive Releases of the Year, 2021

"Because it encompasses the many genres, forms and eras in which Sheff worked, Degrees Of Freedom Found is as much a comprehensive guide for the newcomer as it is a treasure trove for the longterm fan."

The Quietus A Moment Alive: Degrees Of Freedom Found By Blue Gene Tyranny Reviewed by Ned Raggett

"The set itself reflects this kind of interconnection and disassociation from various moments of creation – one of the most purely appealing things about it is the fact that it does not respect time; selections appear without any chronological pattern in the slightest. As the title of the box itself notes, one can find freedom in how one considers the past. It could have been a steady march across decades, the portrait of an artist as a young then older man, the type of thing that still reminds me how fundamentally dull my own young attempt to engage with Eric Clapton as a 'serious' artist with the Crossroads box was. For musical reasons alone there's a world of difference, and a key word in the title again, freedom. So much freedom in these performances, this sense that there were possibilities rather than simple rules. How wonderfully antithetical to the stage name he chose, how delightful, how, in the end, utterly joyful."

San Antonio Current Review by Bill Baird

"It’s clear from Degrees’ first few seconds — and all the way through its diverse and profoundly accomplished 46 tracks — that Tyranny has absolute faith in the music and a willingness to let silence hang, to not noisily clutter up spaces. “Music is the space between the notes,” composer Claude Debussy once said — a sentiment later echoed by Miles Davis.

The collection makes it clear that Tyranny’s is a selfless music, overflowing with generosity, heart and an infectious joy. He found the titular “freedom” in its creation and trusts the listener to do the same, and with an absolute faith in the compositions themselves.

The work is a complete surrender. The listener can come or go. Tyranny creates a suspended world, an “imaginary landscape” in the words of John Cage. All Tyranny asks of the listener is the same complete surrender that he himself has given as performer. "

Best of Bandcamp Contemporary Classical: June 2021, by Peter Margasak

"... the set ultimately raises way more questions than it answers, fascinatingly so."

Track List


  1. A Letter from Home, the basic chords, improvisation for one pianist
    (Live at Roulette, New York, December 1, 2004)
  2. Spirit, for piano, natural and artificial harmonics
    (Live at Roulette, New York, December 1, 2004) 
  3. The 36 Chords from The Driver’s Son, improvisation for one pianist
    (Live at Roulette, New York, December 1, 2004)
  4. The Invention of Memory, piano introduction
    (Live at Roulette, New York, December 1, 2004) 
  5. Time Transposing Pianist (A Letter from Home, vertical version)
    [Live at Roulette, New York, March 27, 1992] 
  6. Leroy Jenkins & Mary Griffin - On the Road to Blountstown, a true story (from "Coincidents”)
    [Live at Roulette, New York, May 3, 2001]
  7. Dreamtime: In the Past (1980) 
  8. Dreamtime: In the Outback (1980)
  9. Dreamtime: Blue Moon Rye (1986)
  10. Tango for Band (1985) 
  11. Any Fine Afternoon (1983) 
  12. Meditation, for trio and chamber orchestra, two performances mixed together (1963, 1993) 
  13. Sleeping Beauty in Camouflage (1992)
  14. The Driver’s Son, Intro
    (Live at Roulette, New York, May 7, 1999) 
  15. The Driver’s Son, Scene I: Tim Disappears, John Follows the Clues
    (Live at Roulette, New York, May 7, 1999) 
  16. The Driver’s Son, Scene II: The Happy Landing
    (Live at Roulette, New York, May 7, 1999) 
  17. The Driver’s Son, Scene III: Trooper Ralph
    (Live at Roulette, New York, May 7, 1999) 
  18. The Driver’s Son, Scene IV: The Center of My Universe
    (Live at Roulette, New York, May 7, 1999) 
  19. The Driver’s Son, Scene V: The Desert
    (Live at Roulette, New York, May 7, 1999) 
  20. The Driver’s Son, Interlude
    (Live in Philadelphia, November 15, 1990)
  21. The Driver’s Son, Scene V
    (Live in Philadelphia, November 15, 1990)
  22. He Was Here (1998) 
  23. The De-Certified Highway of Dreams
    (Live in Missoula, MT, October 10, 1992) 
  24. The Great Seal
    (Live in New York, April 30, 1990) 
  25. Barn Fever
    (Live at Jacob’s Pillow, July 14, 1984) 
  26. Tango for Two (1984) 
  27. We All Watch the Sun and the Moon (for a Moment of Insight)
    [Live at Cooper Union, New York, May 8, 1992] 
  28. Daylight Savings (1980s) 
  29. Driving Music (1991) 
  30. Leading A Double Life (1986) 
  31. Confession
    (Live at Roulette, New York, April 15, 2010) 
  32. Excerpts from Archaeocoustics #1 (The Shining Net) [1977] 
  33. Wooden Nickels
    (Live at the Canterbury House, Ann Arbor, MI, 1968) 
  34. How To Swing A Dog
    (Live at Dance Theater Workshop, New York, Oct 3, 1984) 
  35. Mary Griffin & "Blue" Gene Tyranny - Recollections, Songs from Aphasia: The Word
    (Live at Roulette, Brooklyn, April 13, 2016) 
  36. Mary Griffin & "Blue" Gene Tyranny - Recollections, Songs from Aphasia: Speech
    (Live at Roulette, Brooklyn, April 13, 2016) 
  37. Mary Griffin & "Blue" Gene Tyranny - Recollections, Songs from Aphasia: The Road Trip
    (Live at Roulette, Brooklyn, April 13, 2016) 
  38. Mary Griffin & "Blue" Gene Tyranny - Recollections, Songs from Aphasia: Orpheus
    (Live at Roulette, Brooklyn, April 13, 2016) 
  39. Harvey Milk (Portrait) [1979]
  40. That Then, Now This
    (Live at Merkin Hall, New York, April 1, 1991) 
  41. The Forecaster Hopes (2019) 


Volume One Production, “Blue” Gene Tyranny and Tom Hamilton
Volumes Two–Six Production, “Blue” Gene Tyranny and Philip Perkins
Production Assistant, Sime Viduka
Mastering, Stephan Mathieu
Executive Producer, Tommy McCutchon

Color Photography, Philip Makanna
B&W Photography, Pat Kelley
Design, D.Norsen

All Compositions, Robert Sheff (BMI), Except For “On The Road To Blountstown (A True Story)” By Leroy Jenkins and Mary Griffin, Used by Permission © 2021 Unseen Worlds

About "Blue" Gene Tyranny

  • "Blue" Gene Tyranny
  • “Blue” Gene Tyranny, born Joe Gantic and then adopted as Robert Nathan Sheff, lived a life dominated by music.

    Blue’s approach to music is best demonstrated through his own words:

    Music is my way of being in the world. It teaches subtle feelings, natural growth, social interaction, and more. Music is the art of time passing filled with motion, emotion, locomotion, love of sound, and much more in bits and pieces. Music takes care of two basic needs that last throughout a lifetime: the need to relate to others and the need for freedom.

    He created over 50 works for various electronic and acoustic instruments and voices, which research mysterious natural and social phenomena. Born in San Antonio, Texas, in 1945, Tyranny lived in each of the four corners of mainland U.S. During the late '50s, he studied with pianists Meta Hertwig and Rodney Hoare, composers Otto Wick and Frank Hughes, and organized new music events in Texas with composer Philip Krumm, including several festivals at the McNay Art Institute – premiering works by Cage, Corner, Maxfield, Ono, and others. After earning a BMI Student Composer's Award in 1961, he moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

    During the '60s and '70s, he toured with jazz and rock groups (Carla Bley Band, Iggy Pop, the Prime Movers Blues Band, etc.). From 1971 to 1982, as a Lecturer and Instructor in Music, he taught "Recording Studio Techniques", "Harmony and Counterpoint" (three levels)," and "Jazz Improvisation and Literature," and served on graduate committees in the Music Department of Mills College in Oakland, California. He also worked as a technician at the Center for Contemporary Music, a non-profit, community-access facility located at Mills College.

    He moved to New York in 1983, where he was a self-employed composer-performer of solo and group concerts, audio consultancy, film soundtracks, and commissioned work. He performed extensively in hundreds of concerts throughout the US, Canada, and Europe, and also in Mexico, Brazil, and Japan.

    "Blue" produced, recorded, and performed on many albums of other composers' music (Laurie Anderson's Strange Angels, David Behrman's On the Other Ocean, John Cage's Cheap Imitation and Empty Words, etc.), and he composed the harmonies and piano improvisations for Robert Ashley's television opera Perfect Lives. He created over 40 soundtracks for film and video, collaborating on projects with video artists Kenn Beckman and Kit Fitzgerald. His theater and dance collaborations include pieces with the Talking Band, performance artist Pat Oleszko. 

    "Blue" Gene Tyranny died on December 12, 2020 in Long Island City, New York at the age of 75; his death was brought on by complications from diabetes.