American composer born 28 March 1930 in Ann Arbor, Michigan; died 3 March 2014 in New York City.
Robert Reynolds Ashley was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan on 28 March 1930. His paternal grandfather had moved the family to the the area in 1993 after selling his timber business further north. His father, who had become deaf as the result of an illness (most likely Spanish flu), worked for more than fifty years at the local post office, where he died suddenly, having never missed a single day of work, except in 1946, because of a heart attack. Ashley (like the character Don in his opera Perfect Lives) was captain of the football team at University High School, which gave its students a great deal of freedom and was part of a network of experimental schools that offered teaching opportunities to graduate students in education studying at the University of Michigan.
Growing up, Ashley had little exposure to music except for what he was able to hear on the radio. At the age of fifteen, he heard a concert by the jazz pianist Dickie Johnson. He rapidly became enamored with the work of pianists such as Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons, and formed a boogie-woogie band at his high school, playing in the style of Lewis, Ammons, Nat King Cole, and the other pop music greats of the time.
Ashley attended the University of Michigan from 1948 to 1952, graduating with a degree in music theory. While there, he studied with composers Homer Keller, Ross Lee Finney and Leslie Bassett, as well as music historian and Bach expert Hans T. David. David’s passion for complex canons, strict counterpoint, and musical puzzles doubtless helped to influence Ashley’s taste for strict formulae in his own compositions. After graduation, Ashley moved to New York City, where he studied with Ursula Mamlok and Wallingford Riegger at the Manhattan School of Music. On 11 April 1954, about two weeks after they met, he married an art student named Mary Tsaltas. Ashley was drafted into the army just a few days before the birth of his son, Sam, and sent for basic training at Fort Dix, in New Jersey, after which he was stationed at Fort Hood, in Texas, where he played clarinet, bassoon, and piano in military bands.
In 1956, Ashley was discharged from the army and returned to the University of Michigan to begin work on his doctorate, where he encountered composer Ross Finney, who declared that everything Ashley wrote was unplayable. Ashley ended up changing disciplines, and studying in the nascent field of speech recognition and computerized speech, which was being researched at the University’s Speech Research Institute. This gave him access to an electronics studio, thereby setting the course of his career. During this time he also studied with composer Roberto Gerhard, who replaced Finney in the University’s music program for a year. Surrounded by composition students who shared the same mentality, Ashley and his friends launched the ONCE Festival on campus, inviting John Cage and David Tudor as guests. Ashley became the de facto director of the festival, which hosted thirty-five concerts between 1961 and 1969.
In the autumn of 1969, Ashley was appointed to direct the new center for electronic music at Mills College, giving his electronic music career new impetus. He produced an impressive series of video interviews with composers titled Music with Roots in the Aether. He and Mary separated in 1972, and in 1973, he met Mimi Johnson, the director of Performing Arts Services, the agency that represented John Cage and other members of the experimental music scene of the time. In 1981, Ashley left Mills College to live in New York City with Johnson, who he married in 1979. Johnson’s record label, Lovely Music, became Ashley’s main bridge to a broader audience, and most of his recordings appeared on the label. The premiere of Perfect Lives in its entirety took place at Northwestern University on 24 October 1979. Don Leaves Linda, completed in 1985 and released on Nonesuch records, was Ashley’s only opera to be released on a label other than Lovely Music. Atalanta followed in 1987, then Now Eleanor’s Idea and Foreign Experiences in 1993 and 1994.
The last year’s of Ashley’s life were devoted to writing operas about old age. Dust (1998), Celestial Excursions (2003), Concrete (2006), and Crash (2013) are his most explicitely biographical operas, based on different parts of his life. Several of his productions have been performed in Europe, including Dust in Ferrara, Celestial Excursions at the Hebbel Theater in Berlin, and his last opera, Quicksand, at the Festival d’Automne in Paris. Ashley died on 3 March 2014. His operas continue to be performed by groups such as the New York City-based performance collective Varispeed.
© Ircam-Centre Pompidou, 2018
By Kyle Gann
Robert Ashley revolutionized the relationship between text and music in a way that may take the world several generations to catch up with. On the surface his word-dense, idiosyncratic librettos play such a foregrounded role in his video operas (or intended-for-video operas) that many musicians have written him off as a more of a poet or story-teller who merely underlays his long poems with sonic backgrounds of negligible interest. Yet in reality, Ashley had to invent a wide and original range of musical structures in order to make the music he wanted, with spoken text nearly always on the surface. Perhaps most controversially, for Ashley the spoken word is music, so that what passes for narrative in his operas is really the endless melody of human language accompanied (sometimes) by chord sequences and sonic processes that aid us in hearing it as such.
Born in 1930 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Ashley had two consecutive musical careers, articulated by a dividing line at 1978-9, the period in which he wrote Perfect Lives (initially titled Private Parts), still his best-known work and the most completely realized. In the 1960s and ‘70s Ashley acquired a reputation as one of a group of experimental composers associated with the ONCE festival in Ann Arbor. Bracingly caught between the serialism of Boulez and Stockhausen and the free-wheeling conceptualism of Cage and the Fluxus composers which would seem to be its exact antipode, the ONCE composers (besides Ashley, Gordon Mumma, George Cacioppo, Alvin Lucier, Roger Reynolds, and quite a few others) made pieces to which the traditional methods and materials of music were often quite irrelevant. A piece could be based on an electronic process, or a set of verbal instructions, or a series of acts of which the sonic results were a fortuitous by-product. Within that milieu, one distinctive thing about Ashley was that he seemed less interested in sonic patterns than in the social situation of the performance. In 1961 he rather famously wrote that, after Cage, the guiding metaphor of music was no longer sound but time, and the ultimate result might be “a music that wouldn’t necessarily involve anything but the presence of people… It seems to me that the most radical redefinition of music that I could think of would be one that defines ‘music’ without reference to sound.”1
The ONCE festival (so named because of an early prediction that it would only happen once) ran from 1961 to 1969, enlivening and outraging the town of Ann Arbor in a wild decade in which, all over America, all truths seemed subject to radical redefinition. The earliest work on Ashley’s worklist is a rigorously serialist Piano Sonata of 1959; it would be his last work in conventional musical notation for 32 years, until the piano piece Van Cao’s Meditation of 1992. A 1961 piece called Public Opinion Descends upon the Demonstrators was Ashley’s first piece of music theater; in it, he confrontationally revved up loud electronic sounds from widely-spaced loudspeakers in response to inadvertent noises or shows of impatience from members of the audience. Pieces such as in memoriam…CRAZY HORSE (symphony) (1962) used instructions determining how instrumentalists should react to and influence the sounds they hear.
Ashley’s most famous pre-Perfect Lives piece, the one with which his name was inevitably associated with for 15 years, was Wolfman of 1964. He used his mouth very close to a microphone to create feedback that emerged from loudspeakers at deafening levels, and enhanced the effect by dressing in the persona of a sinister nightclub entertainer. This was still in the days before rock and roll had greatly upped the level of amplification listeners were used to, and the piece acquired a reputation of being a malevolent piece which amounted to sustained torture for the audience. Along with Mumma, Lucier, and David Berhman, Ashley formed and toured with the Sonic Arts Union; until the very late 1970s this was the main facet of his public reputation. “We were one of the inventors,” Ashley has said of them, “of the idea of the kind of music where you can’t make a mistake. You can’t play a wrong note. Everything you do is exactly what the piece calls for. No matter what you do, it’s within the definition of the piece.”2
The bulk of Ashley’s mature work comprises a remarkable series of eleven operas: Perfect Lives, Atalanta, Improvement: Don Leaves Linda, eL/Aficionado, Foreign Experiences, Now Eleanor’s Idea (these latter four forming a tetralogy), Dust, Celestial Excursions, Concrete, Quicksand, and Crash. None of them are operas in the usual opera-hall sense. The “score” of an Ashley opera is generally the text written out, line by line, with notations indicating which character is speaking, (often) which syllables are accented on a beat, what chord is playing, what reciting pitch the character is speaking (singing) on, and occasionally a melody where one appears (which is infrequently). The score doesn’t represent the entire piece; it doesn’t, for instance, contain the music for the “orchestra,” which may be written out in another form, or improvised by the musicians in Ashley’s band. Frequently the rhythmic structure of the opera is predetermined before the text is written. For instance, the operas Improvement, Foreign Experiences, and Now Eleanor’s Idea are all based on symmetrical divisions of a 6336-beat template – all three operas are that length in beats, though divided into acts differently. The four stories in Dust are each 224 four-beat lines long, each lasting exactly nine minutes and 57 seconds. Such seeming coincidences point to the fact that the determining factor in an Ashley opera is not text, but a musical/rhythmic structure.
The story goes that a filmmaker friend asked Ashley to write a script for a contemporary remake of the movie The Wizard of Oz. Before the late 1970s Ashley had never produced a text except through collaborative, ONCE-festival means, but he began writing. “I discovered,” he said, “that I couldn’t think of an idea unless it came out of my mouth. I can’t sit down at a typewriter and write a story, I had to tell the story, talking to myself.”3 Somehow he produced a meditation about an older man called “The Park” and one about a younger woman called “The Backyard,” which (unrelated in any conceivable way to The Wizard of Oz) ultimately became the first and last episodes of Perfect Lives.
Ashley’s operas are intended for television, though Perfect Lives was the only one he was able to afford to put in that format. He cites the old television shows Star Trek and The Honeymooners as models, adding that the episodes of his operas “are meant to be heard and seen by two people sitting on a couch, having a drink, occasionally a snack, occasionally going to the toilet, finally giving up and going to bed because of a hard day of work. They are meant to be seen many times. The details pile up, and finally there is a glimmer of the larger idea. This is my idea of opera.”4
In Perfect Lives the images are mosaic-like and nonlinear, including long shots of Ashley singing and “Blue” Gene Tyranny playing the piano intercutting images of the characters being sung about, and well as more abstract shots. A geometric logic runs through the piece, so that the first episode “The Park” emphasizes a low, horizontal line, “The Bank” is based on a grid tilted upward, “The Church” has a circle in the center, and so on.
The story of Perfect Lives is whimsical, and in Ashley’s operas the plot is neither narrated nor entirely inferable from the text. “I think no listener would recount any of the plots from listening to the operas,” he has said.
Plot requires a lot of ‘exposition.’ We have to keep being reminded of what is happening. I don’t have time to do that, and it’s not interesting to work on… I believe now, a decade and more later, that the listener to any of the four operas in Now Eleanor’s Idea would simply remember, vividly, the central character and would remember some of the dialogue and from the dialogue would assume that there was some plot that I didn’t bring into the foreground.5
Perfect Lives begins with a reflective older man named Raoul and his friend Buddy, “the world’s greatest piano player,” arriving at a town in the Midwest. They plot with two locals, Isolde and Don – captain of the football team – to steal all the money from the local bank for one day, “let the whole world know that it’s missing,” and then return it. Don and Isolde take the money along on their trip with their unwitting friends Ed and Gwyn, who have left town to elope. Will, Isolde’s father and the local sheriff, figures out the plot too late, and Ed and Gwyn have a mystical wedding. The final episode, “The Backyard,” concern’s Isolde’s metaphysical musings at a social gathering in her back yard.
Atalantais an homage to three figures Ashley found inspiring: jazz pianist Bud Powell; Ashley’s uncle Willard Reynolds, described by Ashley as a shaman/story-teller; and the surrealist painter (and the uncle of Ashley’s wife Mimi) Max Ernst. The piece has by far the most extensive text of any of Ashley’s operas; only one third of it can be used in any one performance. Several of the operas are based on characters and plot lines introduced inPerfect Lives.Improvement: Don Leaves Linda deals with the later life of Don the football captain and Linda, who was one of the tellers at the bank. This is Ashley’s most intricately structured opera, written as a vast passacaglia on a 22-pitch row over harmonies of F minor and Bb minor. It is also an extended allegory in which Don represents Spain in 1492 and Linda represents the Jews expelled at that time. The text is dotted with events and place names alluding to Jewish history leading up to the establishment of Israel.
As his career progressed, Ashley’s operas became more and more undisguisedly autobiographical. Foreign Experiences is a self-portrait of Ashley in his desolate early years at Mills College, following the breakup of his marriage. It also relies heavily on the kinds of stories of drug use and desert mysticism popular in the Carlos Castaneda books that were extremely popular in the 1970s. eL/Aficionado, a more modest and lyrical work, is nevertheless kind of a spy satire in which the protagonist (sung by Thomas Buckner) is interrogated. Now Eleanor’s Idea returns most explicitly to the themes of Perfect Lives; in it, Eleanor, one of the bank tellers (sung by Joan LaBarbara), goes in search of Buddy, and finds mysticism in the great Southwest. Research for this last brought Ashley into contact with the lowrider community around Española and Chimayó in northern New Mexico: a lowrider being a car (often a classic 1950s car) that has had its suspension system altered to ride lower than normal, and is typically decorated with an extremely detailed pictorial paint job. A recorded interview with one of the lowriders forms part of the text of the opera.
The ostensive protagonists of Dust are a group of homeless people who lived in a small park visible from Ashley’s Tribeca apartment, though their stories are all ones from Ashley’s own youth. The opera ends with a quartet of quasi-pop songs about various aspects of love, Ashley’s homage to various country-and-western singers; in fact, nearly every Ashley opera contains at least one “pop song” in Ashley’s eccentric vision of the genre. Celestial Experiences (2003) is a musically elaborate opera about old age, the singers representing inmates in an asylum. Concrete (2006), a series of stories from Ashley’s life, is the first of his operas to have an entirely electronic background, and the first from which his own voice is absent. Crash (2013-14) and Quicksand (2011-15) were not performed during the composer’s lifetime. Crash is autobiographical, but Quicksand is an elaborate spy-novel fantasy, based on a trip Ashley and Mimi took to Thailand; the libretto was also published as a short novel.
As Ashley’s career progressed, the form and method of his operas crystallized around the performers and technicians he worked with ever more consistently. One of these was the pianist Robert Sheff, who performs and composes under the stage name “Blue” Gene Tyranny. The initial performance of Perfect Lives was performed entirely by Ashley reading the text, Tyranny playing piano, and an electronic background tape; by 1982 the piece had acquired other sonic layers in dazzling profusion. Tyranny (who was a magnificently versatile improviser) also became the character “Buddy, the world’s greatest pianist,” a mainspring of the four Now Eleanor’s Idea operas. In addition, four singers entered Ashley’s life at various points and because the four characters he usually relied on: Thomas Buckner, Jacqueline Humbert, Joan LaBarbara, and the composer’s son Sam Ashley. Along with Ashley’s own voice (until Concrete) this balanced quartet of male and female singers was the foundation of all his operas from Improvement to Crash; for instance, within the tetralogy, Humbert was lead character in Improvement, Buckner in eL/Aficionado, Sam Ashley in Foreign Experiences, and LaBarbara in Now Eleanor’s Idea. Also starting with the tetralogy, the composer/sound engineer Tom Hamilton was added to Ashley’s creative stable and was responsible for many technical achievements involving the background, particularly in Concrete.
Ashley intended his operas for video – for television, actually – but due to the exorbitant cost of producing in that medium, only Perfect Lives ever reached the stage of completion he wanted. As such, it was aired on television in the United Kingdom, but never in the United States. Ashley wrote that he conceived his operas
as a television series, with each episode having some meaning and humor in itself, but ultimately part of a larger something that only makes sense when you come to know it. Television devotees who have watched The Honeymooners [a classic television show from 1955-56, starring Jackie Gleason, aired in reruns for decades] for most of their lives finally come to know something that they wouldn’t know if they had only seen one episode. Same for Star Trek [a popular science fiction show, 1966-69]. These were my models. I have had to compromise the form of the presentation of my operas, because I was not able to get into television. But they are pure television. They are meant to be heard and seen by two people sitting on a couch, having a drink, occasionally a snack, occasionally going to the toilet, finally giving up and going to bed because of a hard day of work. They are meant to be seen many times. The details pile up, and finally there is a glimmer of the larger idea. This is my idea of opera.6
For Perfect Lives, Ashley engaged the video artist John Sanborn to create a kaleidoscopic video presentation that anticipated trends that would later become common in the pop-music format known as MTV. The remaining operas have mostly been performed onstage, with the main four or five characters visible, sometimes a simple set, and with the “orchestra” and its attendant electronics offstage. The vocalists would perform while listening to a clicktrack on headphones, in order to secure continuity over hundreds of lines in a sonic texture that sometimes approached information overload. Humbert and Sam Ashley actually couldn’t read music, but they had phenomenal ears, and they also spoke with the Detroit accent that Ashley considered central to his musical style.
The musical structures underlying Ashley’s operas tend more and more toward simplicity as his career progressed. eL/Aificionado is structured as a passacaglia over sixteen jazz chords, over which Buckner improvises in specified scales; these same chords are reused in Now Eleanor’s Idea. The opening scene of Dust employs a progression of simple triads repeated in an isorhythmic pattern. Celestial Excursions, for instance, is entirely in the C major scale with different notes (although never C) used as bass drones to differentiate the various sections. Nevertheless, this is Ashley’s most musically elaborate opera; it includes a long, wordless keyboard improvisation by Ashley himself, as well as a rare Ashley setting of someone else’s words, a sonnet by the Renaissance philosopher Giordano Bruno, who was one of the diverse obsessions in Ashley’s intellectual pantheon.
The major eleven operas dominate but do not exhaust Ashley’s creative output in the final thirty years of his life. He also wrote some less ambitious works with text, such as an orchestra piece with voices starring Buckner, When Famous Last Words Fail You (1997), and the hour-long radio play Your Money My Life Goodbye (1998), commissioned by the Bavarian Radio. This last, written with inspirations from the financial pages of the Wall Street Journal, is the story of a high-class financier and swindler who dies mysteriously in prison. Ashley has also written other works for orchestra, although these have not been performed as such, having been released in MIDI versions. Superior Seven (1988), for flutist Barbara Held and virtual orchestra, is based on a kind of elaborate soggetto cavato, a correspondence between notes and letters, and weaves a darkly mysterious atmosphere. Tract (1992), for Buckner’s voice and virtual orchestra is a completion of a conceptual piece dating back to 1995. Ashley also wrote Van Cao’s Meditation (1992) for pianist Lois Svard and Outcome Inevitable (1991) for the Relache ensemble in Philadelphia. Both are meditative, almost motionless works in Ashley’s particular style of postminimalism, in which the texture never changes, but the details remain unpredictable.
Ashley’s reputation has had a varied trajectory. Considered something of an experimentalist and even a musical bad boy during the Wolfman period, he rose to tremendous prominence in the early 1980s when opera, considered an irredeemably conservative artform in mid-century, began to blossom again under the enlivening influence of electronic technology; although the operas of Philip Glass received more attention, Ashley seemed far more audaciously original. When public funding for the arts began to decline in the late 1980s and musical tastes started becoming more conservative, Ashley became more of a background figure in the US, though still nurtured by performers and producers of a more avant-garde bent, especially in Europe. At the end of his life Ashley saw groups of young musicians (such as the group Varispeed) begin performing his operas independent of his involvement, proving both that they could be produced without him and that they could survive a wide latitude of interpretation in the orchestra parts. In 2009, MusikTexte published a volume of Ashley’s writings (Outside of Time), and the first book on his music appeared in 2012. The more liberal definitions of “opera” that might be necessary to normalize and assimilate Ashley’s output has not yet occurred across society as a whole, but it is clear that enough musicians find his music imaginative and compelling to keep it alive.
- Generation, vol. 13, nos 1-2, p. 49 ; cité dans Michael Nyman, Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond (New York: Schirmer Books, 1974), p. 10.
- Interview with the author, New York City, June 11, 2009.
- Interview, June 10, 2009.
- Robert Ashley, “Speech as Music,” in Ashley, Outside of Time, 76, 78.
- “A New Kind of Opera,” in Outside of Time (Köln: Musiktexte, 2009), p. 136.
- “Speech as Music: A Musical Autobiography,” in Outside of Time (Köln: Musiktexte, 2009), pp. 76, 78.
© Ircam-Centre Pompidou, 2018
- Solo (excluding voice)
- Piano Sonata (Christopher Columbus Crosses to the New World in the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria Using Only Dead Reckoning and a Crude Astrolabe) for piano (1959), 8 mn about , Smith Publications
- Maneuvers for Small Hands for piano (1961)
- Details for Two Pianists, IIb for a piano and four hands (1962), Inédit
- Revised, Finally (April, 1961-April, 1973), for Gordon Mumma for pairs of bell-like instruments (1973)
- elec How Can I Tell the Difference? for violin or viola with electronics and tape (1974)
- Basic 10 for snare or other percussion (1988), Smith Publications
- Van Cao's Meditation solo piano (1992), 38 mn
- Chamber music
- elec Something for clarinet... for clarinet or flute, pianos and tape (1961)
- in memoriam ... JOHN SMITH (concerto) for three musicians, with assistants (1963), Smith Publications
- in memoriam...ESTEBAN GOMEZ (quartet) for string quartet (1963), Smith Publications
- The Entrance for two electronic keyboards (1965)
- elec String Quartet Describing the Motions of Large Real Bodies for string quartet and electronics (1972), 20 mn about
- Waiting Room for wind or string quartet (1965-1978)
- for Andie Springer for violin with cello or guitar (2010), 15 mn
- Berceuse for violin and piano (2011)
- Instrumental ensemble music
- elec Complete with Heat for orchestral instruments and tape (1962), Inédit
- Fives for two pianos, two percussions and string quintet (1962), Inédit
- in memoriam ... CRAZY HORSE (symphony) for twenty wind or string instruments or other "supporting" instruments (1963), Smith Publications
- in memoriam ... KIT CARSON (opera) for eight-part ensemble (1963), Smith Publications
- Odalisque for twenty-four instrument orchestra, solo voice, choir (1985), 20 mn
- Outcome Inevitable for chamber orchestra of eight or more musicians (1991), 15 mn
- Vocal music and instrument(s)
- elec stage Improvement (Don Leaves Linda) opera for solo voice, choir, orchestra and electronics (1985)
- stage el/Aficionado opera: solo voice, choir, piano and electronics (1987), 1 h 28 mn
- Superior Seven flute with orchestral instruments and choir (1988), 30 mn
- The Offering of Images for baritone voice and piano (1991), 10 mn
- The Producer Speaks for baritone voice and piano (1991), 23 mn about
- When Famous Last Words Fail You for voice, choir and orchestra (1997), 35 mn
- Tap Dancing in the Sand for narrator, contralto voice and eight instruments (2004), 25 mn about
- Hidden Similarities for voices and eight instruments (2005), 6 mn
- A cappella vocal music
- elec The Wolfman for amplified voice and tape (1964), 18 mn
- She Was A Visitor for narrator and choir (1967), 6 mn about , Smith Publications
- elec Fancy Free or It's There for narrator and cassette players (1970)
- elec In Sara Mencken Christ and Beethoven There Were Men and Women for voice and electronics (1972)
- elec Your Move, I Think for three reciters and magnetic tape (1974)
- Night Sport for improvising voice and various distractions (1975)
- elec Ideas from 'The Church' for voice and tape (1979)
- elec Music Word Fire And I Would Do It Again Coo Coo: The Lessons for voice, electronic instruments (1981)
- Tap Dancing in the Sand for solo voice (1982), 20 mn
- Problems in the Flying Saucer two solo voices (1988), 20 mn
- elec Empire (The History of Tomato Soup) for voice and tape or piano (1991), 45 mn
- elec The Max Anecdote for voice and tape or piano (1991), 25 mn
- elec Tract for voice, pre-recorded orchestra and optional string trio (1992), 27 mn
- elec stage Now Eleanor's Idea opera: solo voice and pre-recorded orchestra (1993), 1 h 30 mn
- The Song for solo voice, choirs and pre-recorded electronic orchestra (1993)
- elec stage Foreign Experiences opera: solo voice, choir and pre-recorded orchestra (1994), 1 h 12 mn
- Love Is A Good Example solo voice (1994), 16 mn
- elec stage Balseros opera: solo voices, choir and pre-recorded orchestra (1997), 1 h 30 mn
- elec Dust opera for solo voice and pre-recorded orchestra (1998), 1 h 30 mn
- elec Your Money My Life Goodbye for solo voices and pre-recorded orchestra (1998)
- elec Celestial Excursions opera for solo voices and pre-recorded orchestra (2003), 1 h 51 mn
- elec Concrete opera for solo voices and pre-recorded orchestra (2008), 1 h 30 mn
- World War III Just the Highlights for solo voice and choir (2010)
- elec Quicksand opera for solo voice, choir, pre-recorded orchestra and electronics (2011), 2 h 50 mn
- elec stage That Morning Thing (opera) opera for five main voices, eight dancers, women's choir and magnetic tape (1967, 2011), 1 h 10 mn about
- Crash (2013), 1 h 30 mn
- Electronic music / fixed media / mechanical musical instruments
- elec The Fourth of July for magnetic tape (1960), 19 mn about
- elec Detroit Divided with four-part tape (1962)
- elec Big Danger in Five Parts magnetic tape (1964), 12 mn
- elec Combination Wedding and Funeral electronic music theater (1964)
- elec Kittyhawk (An Antigravity Piece) electronic music theater (1964)
- elec The Lecture Series (aka “Joyroad Interchange”) electronic music theater (1964)
- elec The Wolfman Tape magnetic tape (1964)
- elec Orange Dessert electronic music theater (1965)
- elec Unmarked Interchange electronic music theater (1965)
- elec Untitled Mixes magnetic tape (1965)
- elec Night Train electronic music theater (1966)
- elec Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon electronic music theater (1968), 10 mn about
- elec The Trial of Anne Opie Wehrer and Unknown Accomplices for Crimes Against Humanity electronic music theater (1968), 1 h 30 mn about
- elec The Wolfman Motorcity Revue electronic music theater (1968)
- elec Morton Feldman Says Sound producing dance (1970)
- elec Music with Roots in the Aether television opera (1976), 14 h
- elec Title Withdrawn Music theater on video tape (1976), 48 mn
- elec What She Thinks Music theater on video tape (1976), 58 mn
- elec Automatic Writing voices, electronic instruments, special recording techniques (1974-1979), 46 mn 2 s
- elec Perfect Lives television opera in seven thirty-minute episodes (1978-1983), 3 h 15 mn
- elec Atalanta Strategy television opera (1984), 27 mn
- elec Atalanta (Acts of God) three operas composed to be intermingled (1982-1987)
- elec Yellow Man with Heart with Wings magnetic tape (1978-1990), 27 mn
- elec Factory Preset magnetic tape (1993), 5 mn
- elec Domestic Appliances magnetic tape (1997)
- Unspecified instrumentation
- The Image in Time music for the film by George Manupelli (1957)
- The Bottleman music for the film by George Manupelli (1960)
- Public Opinion Descends Upon the Demonstrators electronic music theater (1961)
- The House music for the film by George Manupelli (1961)
- Boxing Sound producing dance (1963)
- Trios (White on White) for open ensemble (1963), Smith Publications
- Interludes for the Space Theater Sound producing dance (1964)
- Jenny and the Poet music for the film by George Manupelli (1964), Inédit
- My May music for the film by George Manupelli (1965)
- Frogs (1967)
- Overdrive music for the film by George Manupelli (1968)
- Portraits, Self-Portraits and Still Lifes music for the film by George Manupelli (1969)
- Battery Davis music for the film by Philip Makanna (1970)
- Illusion Models Hypothetical computer tasks (1970)
- Dr. Chicago music for four films by George Manupelli (1969-1971)
- Over the Telephone Remote control of a performance in another place (1975)
- The Lessons television opera (1981)
Catalog sources and details
Kyle Gann et le site robertashley.org
- Crash, 1 h 30 mn
- elec Concrete opera for solo voices and pre-recorded orchestra, 1 h 30 mn
- Hidden Similarities for voices and eight instruments, 6 mn
- Tap Dancing in the Sand for narrator, contralto voice and eight instruments, 25 mn about
- elec Celestial Excursions opera for solo voices and pre-recorded orchestra, 1 h 51 mn
- elec Empire (The History of Tomato Soup) for voice and tape or piano, 45 mn
- Outcome Inevitable for chamber orchestra of eight or more musicians, 15 mn
- elec The Max Anecdote for voice and tape or piano, 25 mn
- The Offering of Images for baritone voice and piano, 10 mn
- The Producer Speaks for baritone voice and piano, 23 mn about
- elec Yellow Man with Heart with Wings magnetic tape, 27 mn
- elec Atalanta Strategy television opera, 27 mn
- elec Perfect Lives television opera in seven thirty-minute episodes, 3 h 15 mn
- Tap Dancing in the Sand for solo voice, 20 mn
- elec Music Word Fire And I Would Do It Again Coo Coo: The Lessons for voice, electronic instruments
- The Lessons television opera
- Waiting Room for wind or string quartet
- Revised, Finally (April, 1961-April, 1973), for Gordon Mumma for pairs of bell-like instruments
- elec In Sara Mencken Christ and Beethoven There Were Men and Women for voice and electronics
- elec String Quartet Describing the Motions of Large Real Bodies for string quartet and electronics, 20 mn about
- Dr. Chicago music for four films by George Manupelli
- Portraits, Self-Portraits and Still Lifes music for the film by George Manupelli
- Overdrive music for the film by George Manupelli
- elec Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon electronic music theater, 10 mn about
- elec The Trial of Anne Opie Wehrer and Unknown Accomplices for Crimes Against Humanity electronic music theater, 1 h 30 mn about
- elec The Wolfman Motorcity Revue electronic music theater
- elec Night Train electronic music theater
- elec Big Danger in Five Parts magnetic tape, 12 mn
- elec Combination Wedding and Funeral electronic music theater
- Interludes for the Space Theater Sound producing dance
- Jenny and the Poet music for the film by George Manupelli, Inédit
- elec Kittyhawk (An Antigravity Piece) electronic music theater
- elec The Lecture Series (aka “Joyroad Interchange”) electronic music theater
- elec The Wolfman for amplified voice and tape, 18 mn
- elec The Wolfman Tape magnetic tape
- Boxing Sound producing dance
- Trios (White on White) for open ensemble, Smith Publications
- in memoriam ... CRAZY HORSE (symphony) for twenty wind or string instruments or other "supporting" instruments, Smith Publications
- in memoriam ... JOHN SMITH (concerto) for three musicians, with assistants, Smith Publications
- in memoriam ... KIT CARSON (opera) for eight-part ensemble, Smith Publications
- in memoriam...ESTEBAN GOMEZ (quartet) for string quartet, Smith Publications
- Piano Sonata (Christopher Columbus Crosses to the New World in the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria Using Only Dead Reckoning and a Crude Astrolabe) for piano, 8 mn about , Smith Publications
- The Image in Time music for the film by George Manupelli
Kyle Gann et le site robertashley.org
- Robert ASHLEY, Atalanta (Acts of God). Santa Fe: Burning Books, 2011.
- Robert ASHLEY, Music with Roots in the Aether. Köln: MusikTexte, 2000.
- Robert ASHLEY, Outside of Time: Ideas about Music. Köln: MusikTexte, 2009.
- Robert ASHLEY, Quicksand. Santa Fe: Burning Books, 2011.
- Robert ASHLEY, Larry Austin, and Karlheinz Stockhausen. “Conversation,” in Source, Issue Number One, 1967, p. 106.
- Robert ASHLEY, Perfect Lives. San Francisco: Burning Books/Archer Fields, 1991.
- Larry AUSTIN, Douglas KAHN et Nilendra GURUSINGHE, eds. Source: Music of the Avant-garde, 1966-1973. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 2011.
- Daniel CAUX, Le “Sonic Arts Union”, in Le silence, les couleurs du prisme & la mécanique du temps qui passe, Éditions de l’éclat, pp. 351-359.
- David COPE. New Directions in Music. Dubuque: Wm. C. Brown Company, 1973.
- Cole GAGNE and Tracy CARAS, Soundpieces: Interviews with American Composers. Metuchen, N.J. and London, Scarecrow Press, 1982.
- Kyle GANN, “The British Don’t Have Oral Sex.” Village Voice, December 13, 1994 (Vol. XXXIX No. 50), p. 92.
- Kyle GANN, “Finnegans Opera.” Village Voice, October 29, 1991 (Vol. XXXVI No. 44, p. 90).
- Kyle GANN, “Opera Rad.” Village Voice, April 4, 2000 (Vol XLV No. 13, pp. 116, 119)
- Kyle GANN, “Real-Life Ring.” Village Voice, November 15, 1994 (Vol. XXXIX No. 46), p. 84.
- Kyle GANN, “Shouting at the Dead,” Village Voice, October 8, 1991 (Vol. XXXVI No. 41), p. 89.
- Kyle GANN, “Where the River Ends.” Village Voice, April 29, 2003 (Vol. XLVIII No. 17), p. 109.
- Peter GREENAWAY, Four American Composers: a series of one hour films about Robert Ashley, John Cage, Philip Glass and Meredith Monk. Transatlantic Films (London)/Mystic Fire Video (New York), 1982/91 (film)
- H. Wiley HITCHCOCK, “Current Chronicle” in The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 48, No. 2 (Apr., 1962), p. 246.
- Kevin James HOLM-HUDSON, “Music, Text, and Image in Robert Ashley’s Video Opera Perfect Lives.” Doctoral dissertation, University of Illinois, 1992
- Richard S. JAMES “ONCE: Microcosm of the 1960s Musical and Multimedia Avant-Garde,” in American Music, Vol. 5, No. 3 (Winter, 1987), 359-390.
- Roger JOHNSON, Scores: An Anthology of New Music. New York: Schirmer Books, 1981.
- Leta E. MILLER “ONCE and Again: The Evolution of a Legendary Festival,” in liner notes to Music from the ONCE Festival 1961-1966. New World 80567-2. 2003.
- Nyman, Nyman. Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974.
- Ted. RANCONT “Coins, Balloons and Explosions Play Roles in ONCE Festival,” Ann Arbor News. Feb. 29, 1964.
- M., K. Burch and M. SUMNER, eds. The Guests Go In to Supper: Texts, Scores and Ideas of Seven American Composers: Ashley, Ono, Gage, Anderson, Amirkhanian, Peppe, Atchley. Oakland: Burning Books 1986.
- Robert ASHLEY, Crash, Lovely Music, CD 5001-2, 2015.
- Robert ASHLEY, Atalanta (Acts of God) Vol II, Lovely Music, CD 3303-4, 2010.
- Robert ASHLEY, Concrete, Lovely Music, CD 2010, 2008.
- Robert ASHLEY, Foreign Experiences, Lovely Music, CD 1008, 2006.
- Robert ASHLEY, *Celestial Excursions,*Lovely Music, CD 1007, 2005.
- Various Artists, Music From the ONCE Festival, Advance, 2003. Contient les pièces : *Sonata,The Fourth of July, Details (2b),Fives,In Memoriam…Crazy Horse,Quartet.
- Robert ASHLEY, Dust, Lovely Music, CD 1006, 2000.
- Robert ASHLEY, *Automatic Writing,*Lovely Music, CD 1002, 1996. Contient les pièces : Automatic Writing(1979), Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon(1968) et She Was A Visitor(1967).
- Robert ASHLEY, *eL/Aficionado,*Lovely Music, CD 1004, 1994.
- Robert ASHLEY, Atalanta (Acts of God), Lovely Music, CD 3301, 1997.
- Robert ASHLEY, Perfect Lives, Lovely Music, CD 4917, 1990.
- Robert ASHLEY, Yellow Man With Heart With Wings, Lovely Music, CD 1003, 1990.
- Robert ASHLEY & Walter MARCHETTI, October 25, 2001 Merkin Concert Hall NYC, Choose Records, 011, 2007.
- Robert ASHLEY, Wolfman, Alga Marghen, plana-A 20NMN.047, 2002.
- Robert ASHLEY, String Quartet Describing The Motions Of Large Real Bodies / How Can I Tell The Difference?, Alga Marghen, plana-A 10NMN.030, 2002.
- Robert ASHLEY, Atalanta (Acts Of God), Lovely Music, VR 3301, 1985.
- Robert ASHLEY, Henning CHRISTIANSEN, Giancarlo SCHIAFFINI, “Blue” Gene TYRANNY, Rosenfest Berlin 1984 (Fragment XXX), BerlinerKünstlerprogrammdesDAAD, DAAD 011, 1984.
- Robert ASHLEY, Perfect Lives (Private Parts): Music Word Fire And I Would Do It Again (Coo Coo), Lovely Music, VR 4908, 1981.
- Robert ASHLEY, Perfect Lives (Private Parts): The Bar, Lovely Music, VR 4904, 1980.
- Robert ASHLEY, Automatic Writing, Lovely Music, VR 1002, 1979.
- Robert ASHLEY, Private Parts, Lovely Music, LML 1001, 1978.
- Robert ASHLEY, In Sara, Mencken, Christ And Beethoven There Were Men And Women, Cramps Records, CRSLP 6103, 1974.
- Robert ASHLEY, David BEHRMAN, Larry AUSTIN, Allan BRYANT, Source: Music Of The Avant Garde Issue Number 4, Source Records, 1968.
(liens vérifiés en mai 2018)