Downtown legends “Blue” Gene Tyranny and Mary Griffin collaborate on a multimedia oratorio drawing its inspiration from “Aphasians” — people who lost their ability to speak as a result of traumatic brain injuries and who are reclaiming their memories and language.
Scored for a string ensemble and four singers, the piece focuses on themes of memory, speech and heroic determination. Staged within a video projection environment created by video artist Ursula Scherrer, the songs are punctuated with short excerpts from video interviews with aphasia survivors, accompanied by Blue’s pre-recorded sound and animated word graphics. Familiar songs such as “You Are My Sunshine,” which the Aphasia survivors sing repeatedly as part of their therapy, appear in various modalities of American music, including appalachian, jazz, cajun, and experimental electronics.
Mary Griffin is a writer of poetry and librettos. She has worked with composer Joseph Hannan, with whom she has written Christina the Astonishing: Patron Saint of Psychiatrists and Lovers and Sick Cattle, the first two sections of a trilogy of operas based on the lives of saints, and Nil Nisi Bonum, a shaggy dog story. She also collaborated with composer Frankie Mann on Iland for Roulette TV. Griffin was the director of The Kitchen from 1978-1984 and continues to work with Carlota Schoolman and Providence Productions.
Composer and pianist Robert Sheff became "Blue" Gene Tyranny for the Genetic Transformations, a performance piece he created while touring with a rock band in the early 1970s. The creator of numerous dance, theatre, and film scores, he composed the harmonies (chords) and piano improvisations for the original text of Robert Ashley's opera-for-television "Perfect Lives." Blue has worked with Laurie Anderson, John Cage, Leroy Jenkins, Iggy Pop, and others. His recordings have been released on Unseen Worlds Records, Lovely Worlds, and Nonesuch Records.