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CD Feature/ "Blue" Gene Tyranny: "The Somewhere Songs/ The Invention of Memory"

img  Tobias

There is a quote by Claude Debussy which goes something like this: “Every masterpiece establishes a set of laws. But the laws don’t come first”. What he meant, of course, was, that the idea of dogmatic “schools” was inherently contradictory to the notion of freedom in expressing oneself through composition. In striking opposition to the past 1000 years of musical history, his view was focussed on the work rather than its creator and on setting aside one’s own reservations in favour of artistic demands. After listening to “The Somewhere Songs/The Invention of Memory”, one can assume “Blue” Gene Tyranny to share this perspective.

After all, both “The Somewhere Songs”, congenially performed by Thomas Buckner (Voice) and Peter Gordon (“Sax Wild Tracks”) here and “The Invention of Memory” for a small acoustic ensemble including Tyranny himself, are as far away from any artistic “debates”, “directions”, “traditions” and “movements” that merely listening to them makes you wonder where on earth they came from. The all-too familiar celebration of the same old same is as triumphantly absent here as the puberscent defiance of everything held to be good by those who came before. And after the last note has died down, the slate of creative possibilities suddenly seems clean again.

All of this is happening in dreamtime and without the use of force or the sounding of revolutionary fanfares. On paper, “The Somewhere Songs” are nothing but a tripart piece of evolving electro-orchestral arrangements and Thomas Buckner’s hypnotic dramaturgic narrative. On paper, too, “The Invention of Memory” merely constitutes a somewhat lengthy collection of suprisingly anthemic contemporary Lieder. From a mechanistical point of view, we are in the territory of conventional tonality here, of harmonious harmonies, recognisable melodies and (heaven forbid) songs. What, then, makes these pieces stand out?

On the one hand, their unparalled compositional drive and emotional empathy. On “The Invention of Memory”, Tyranny conjures up a stirring cornucopia of nostalgic images and homesick associations through his heartwrenching chord schemes which Buckner haunts like a fearful ghosts from the past. Every word could be the last here, every beginning mournfully anticipates its end regardless of how inventive and complex these pieces have been composed and structured, their essence is stupifyingly fundamental. It almost doesn’t seem to matter what these tracks are really about - they all sound like love- and torch songs, either celebrating the joy of being alive and lamenting the horror of disappearing in death.

On the other, their unique fusion of voice, word and music, which takes Robert Ashley’s similarly poled ideas regarding Opera to a chambermusical setting. “The Somewhere Songs” are essentially a radio play, theatre, audio book and a collection of songs in one. Sometimes, the sounds will follow Buckner’s melodies, which in turn are shaped by the content of the story to be told. On other occasions, the music dictates which way to go, melodies and harmonies following in its slipstream.

As a consequence, the theoretical skeleton behind the score starts to disintegrate, leaving nothing but a body of pure music. Typical time measures mean nothing here, nor do concepts of tonality or tradition. If it still seems to be bound to some familiar concepts, then that is the result of the only law this album seems to adhere to: That it was written by a human being for a human audience. Other than that, “The Somewhere Songs/The Invention of Memory” is just as free from dogma and cliche as Debussy would have wanted.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: "Blue" Gene Tyranny
Homepage: Mutable Music

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