Robert Ashley

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University of Illinois Press, Dec 16, 2012 - Biography & Autobiography - 184 pages
This book explores the life and works of the pioneering opera composer Robert Ashley, one of the leading American composers of the post-Cage generation. Ashley's innovations began in the 1960s when he, along with Alvin Lucier, Gordon Mumma, and David Behrman, formed the Sonic Arts Union, a group that turned conceptualism toward electronics. He was also instrumental in the influential ONCE Group, a theatrical ensemble that toured extensively in the 1960s.During his tenure as its director, the ONCE Festival in Ann Arbor presented most of the decade's pioneers of the performing arts. Particularly known for his development of television operas beginning with Perfect Lives, Ashley spun a long series of similar text/music works, sometimes termed "performance novels." These massive pieces have been compared with Wagner's Ring Cycle for the vastness of their vision, though the materials are completely different, often incorporating noise backgrounds, vernacular music, and highly structured, even serialized, musical structures. Drawing on extensive research into Ashley's early years in Ann Arbor and interviews with Ashley and his collaborators, Kyle Gann chronicles the life and work of this musical innovator and provides an overview of the avant-garde milieu of the 1960s and 1970s to which he was so central. Gann examines all nine of Ashley's major operas to date in detail, along with many minor works, revealing the fanatical structures that underlie Ashley's music as well as private references hidden in his opera librettos.

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User Review  - BobCulley - LibraryThing

This is a much needed overview of Robert Ashley's life and work. The biographical information helps to elaborate many references in Ashley's compositions. The chronology provides some insight into how ... Read full review


1 Oh How We Misunderstand Introduction
2 The Vessel of the Eternal Present The Early Years
3 When Slow Starts to Mean Something We Crave Fast The ONCE Years
4 Incredibly Slowly Our View Begins to Slide The Mills College Years
5 Im Not the Same Person That I Used to Be Perfect Lives
6 Who Could Speak If Every Word Had Meaning? Atalanta Acts of God
7 If You Have to Ask You Cant Afford One Now Eleanors Idea
8 One Thing Follows the Next and I Just Do It Dust Celestial Excursions Concrete and Smaller
Chronological List of Works by Robert Ashley
Selected Bibliography
Robert Ashley Discography

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About the author (2012)

Kyle Gann is an associate professor of music at Bard College and the author of several books, including Music Downtown: Writings from the Village Voice and John Cage's 4'33".

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