“The perfect document of an unclassifiable talent, impossible to absorb or assess in one listen—or even ten—and revealing astonishing new musical discoveries with every play.”

Freedom from the Known: “Blue” Gene Tyranny Was Texas’s Greatest Piano Prodigy for Texas Monthly

A little bit more about my connection to “Blue” below…

I was honored to get to write about the massive and challenging new “Blue” Gene Tyranny box set for Texas Monthly, something near and dear to my heart. “Blue” Gene Tyranny has been a lodestar for me for most of my adult life. Or rather, I took some inspiration great work and great minds can arise from the morass that is San Antonio. The same McNay Art Museum that me and my friends would cut class to go get high at daily was the same place where the teenaged Tyranny and his friend Philip Krumm staged world premieres of works from the likes of John Cage, Yoko Ono, Richard Maxfield and more. My first set of liner notes was about the reissue of Krumm’s Formations and I then got the chance to explore Tyranny and Peter Gordon’s Trust in Rock concerts for Bandcamp a few years ago. But that secret history of SA and the McNay always fascinated me. We spoke about it but I never got to use his words about the McNay, so I’ll post it all below:

Yes, the McNay Gallery was definitely a wonderful revelation where one could see the very latest art in a pleasant Spanish architecture setting. Phillip Krumm arranged for our concert series there which went well despite a fight between a painter friend of ours and someone from one of the local military bases. I guess concerning the music. I still don’t know. We changed the lighting especially for the Richard Maxfield concert which consisted completely of his electronic music. It was a surprise for us that many of John Cage’s works had their Texas premieres in those concerts and that we wound up later in the publisher’s catalog of his works.

The concerts were well attended although we only had a smaller gallery room in which to give them. The audience, for the most part, was peaceful and attentive. And John’s music has always seemed to create a new consciousness, not in the New Age sense but simply in feeling a new higher electricity, if to say so, in the room as if the top of your head had an insight that wasn’t there before. It’s a very subtle experience to try to explain but a very real one. There was no upset crowd like I heard on the records of his New York retrospective concerts. Just a wonderful experience.

The first contact with the wonderful Fluxus composers was obtained by Philip Krumm and I think it was through Phillip Corner who had gotten drafted at the time and as was the practice was sent to one of the bases surrounding San Antonio, perhaps Fort Sam Houston, and then on to Korea. I’m almost sure of this but I’d have to check again with Phillip Krumm. Many of the Fluxus pieces were performed by us and that influenced us to pursue music that was mostly in verbal instructions and also led to Philip K’s article “Music Without Notes” which was published. At that time people were sending each other works of all sorts through the mail and we would get notes from people like George Brecht asking what was going on in Texas and later what was happening in the Mid West because I guess we were not in the so-called “art centers” of the states.

Philip and I also invented things like the Yokonophone which was an instrument for producing inaudible sounds. Also, we had no idea whether the name Yoko was that of a man or a woman but we were one of her earliest champions. This later translated to helping John Lennon stay in the states even though people like Richard Nixon were trying to deport him. I can’t even begin to name all of the pieces that we presented at that time in Texas. But they were well appreciated by many people. 

“Blue” Gene Tyranny via email

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