UbuWeb Sound


Robert Ashley

    Music From The ONCE Festival (1961–1966)

  1. Robert Ashley – Sonata (7:44) 2/25/61
  2. Robert Ashley – The Fourth of July (18:37) 2/25/61
  3. Robert Ashley – Details (2b) (7:09) 12/16/62
  4. Robert Ashley – Fives (12:36) 2/9/63
  5. Robert Ashley – in memoriam … Crazy Horse (symphony) (15:12) 2/25/64
  6. Robert Ashley – Quartet (9:51) 3/28/66

    That Morning Thing (1969)

  7. That Morning Thing (1969), Part 1 (43:03)
  8. That Morning Thing (1969), Part 2 (37:17)

    A live recording of the complete experimental opera, “That Morning Thing” by Robert Ashley, possibly from the Dec. 8, 1969 performance at Mills College. Composed in 1967 this was Ashley’s second foray into the realm of avant-garde musical theater, and is a work for five principal voices, eight dancers, women's chorus and tape. The mainstream media’s reaction, as well as that of some in the audience, was notably mixed, however rather than being a commentary on the ultimate quality of the work it seems to be more an indication of the audience’s unfamiliarity with Ashley’s trademark mix of electronic and prerecorded sounds with the more traditional elements of opera. Certainly for anybody interested in avant-garde theater in general or Robert Ashley specifically, this historic recording of one of his earliest and perhaps lesser known works should be of immense interest and value.

  9. Three Works by Robert Ashley: Heat, Manifestations: Light and Sound, Christopher Columbus crosses to the New World in the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria using only dead reckoning and a crude astrolabe (37:17)

    Two electronic music works and one rather avant-garde piano sonata by Robert Ashley. The first piece of electronic music “Heat” was conceived as a sort of soundtrack for one of Milton Cohen’s light sculpture/theater works entitled “Manifestations: Light and Sound.” This is followed by a somewhat sparse piano sonata which has as it’s subtitle, “Christopher Columbus crosses to the New World in the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria using only dead reckoning and a crude astrolabe.” One can easily envisage the 15th century explorer wandering aimlessly around the Atlantic Ocean, searching for India, as the piano plays in the background. The program concludes with another typical early electronic composition. Robert Ashley was born in 1930 and in addition to being a frequent collaborator in Cohen’s intermedia “Space Theater” during the late 1950s and early 1960s he was also one of the founders of the ONCE Festivals, as well as a composer of numerous avant-garde operas including “That Morning Thing” and “Perfect Lives (Private Parts).”

  10. Interiors With Flash (3:07)
    Recorded Mills College, Oakland, CA, May 14, 1978 from Big Ego (Giorno Poetry Systems)

  11. The Wolfman (15:33)
    From SOURCE: Music of the Avant-Garde

  12. Interview with Robert Ashley and William Maraldo (October 3, 1969)

    Charles Amirkhanian interviews composers Robert Ashley and William Maraldo, who have been named to co-direct the activities of the Mills Center for Contemporary Music starting September 1969. In addition to describing the origins and upcoming schedule of the Center, this program also includes a discussion by both Ashley and Maraldo about their careers, early influences, and musical works.

  13. Robert Ashley on his opera "That Morning Thing" (KPFA, December 6, 1969)

    Robert Ashley joins Charles Amirkhanian, Richard Friedman, and William Maraldo for a discussion about his modern opera, “That Morning Thing”, which was scheduled to be debuted just two days after this recording was made on December 6, 1969. The program begins with a rather detailed description of the opera or work of musical theater, which had no singing, per se, but instead was scored for multiple speakers, many of them prerecorded, and several dancers. The inspiration of the piece, according to Ashley, was his understanding that the early morning hours were often the most dangerous for those seriously ill or contemplating suicide, and that for everybody else, they were a time in which one had to reconstruct oneself in order to face the day. Ashley also discusses his life long interest in opera and his preference for music that involves the human voice and the written word rather than for more abstract or pure forms of music as represented by the sonata or symphony. The four also talk about how Ashely’s work represents a new type of opera or music theater. The program concludes with a discussion of Ashley’s collaboration with George Manupelli on a number of film scores.

  14. Robert Ashley Interview (November 3, 1983)

    Robert Ashley edited interview on KPFA's Morning Concert, 3 November 1983. In addition to talking about his interest in multi-track recording and opera, Ashley recalls that in the early Fifties in NYC there were only a half a dozen new music concerts in an entire season. How things have changed!

  15. In Sara Mencken, Christ and Beethoveen there were men and women (1972)

    Text: John Barton Wolgamot (written 1944)
    Music: Robert Ashley + Paul DeMarinis
    Voice: Robert Ashley

  16. Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon
    From the LP Sonic Arts Union

  17. Robert Ashley – Flying Saucer Dialogue 7:14

    Keyboards, Engineer [Sound Design], Mixed By, Producer – Paul Shorr
    Producer – Lawrence Brickman
    Voice – Jacqueline Humbert
    Voice, Keyboards, Producer – Robert Ashley

    Robert Ashley is known as a pioneer in the development of large-scale, collaborative performance works and new forms of opera such as That Morning Thing and In Memoriam... Kit Carson. Landmark recordings, such as She was a Visitor and In Sara, Mencken, Christ and Beethoven There Were Men and Women, have pointed the way to new uses of language in a musical setting. His current works, operas for television entitled Perfect Lives, Atalanta (Acts of God), and Now Eleanor's Idea, are continuations of his long-time interest in and use of visual media to express musical ideas.

    Ashley was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1930. He studied and worked at the Speech Research Laboratories at the University of Michigan, and was a Research Assistant in Acoustics at the Architectural Research Laboratory. He studied composition with Ross Lee Finney, Leslie Bassett, Roberto Gerhard and Wallingford Riegger.

    During the 1960s, he was co-organizer of the ONCE Festival in Ann Arbor which, from 1961 to 1969, presented many of the decade's major artists. He organized and directed the legendary ONCE Group, a music-theater collaborative that toured from 1965 to 1969. From 1966 to 1976. he toured with the Sonic Arts Union, the composers' collective that included David Behrman, Alvin Lucier and Gordon Mumma. During 1975 and 1976 he produced and directed his fisrt television opera Music with Roots in the Aether (Video Portraits of Composers and their Music), which documented the work and ideas of seven major American composers. From 1969 to 1981, Ashley was Director of the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills.

    Atalanta (Acts of God) is a comic opera in ten scenes with multi-projector slide show. Its "subject" is the character of three men who "stood apart" from their society by virtue of their genius: Max Ernst (surrealist painter), Willard Reynolds (shaman-storyteller) and Bud Powell (pianist-composer). The music and texts were composed in the form of anecdotes or "moral fables" composed and performed in the spirit of "divine inspiration" or heedlessness. It is Ashley's intention to invoke the characters of the opera through this method. Atalanta (Acts of God), whose theme is architecture, is the first part of a trilogy of narrative works ("operas"), of which Perfect Lives, whose theme is agriculture, is the second part, and Now Eleanor's Idea, whose theme is geneaolgy, is part three.

    """Flying Saucer has come to Earth for important indicator event concerning humans: The Marriage of Atalanta. Problem: Apples. ('Apples, even golden ones, for one of the greatest living humans?') Log: 'Pick up the apples, in whatever form, and take them to Earth-base for analysis. You will know them. This has been arranged. After analysis they are to be returned to where you got them. No evidence that they were gone. What we need to know is what they are and what is their attraction for this great human.' Flying Saucer briefed on 'current' human concerns, specifically, architecture: shelters, power generators; monuments (functional, creative, symbolic space; i.e., images of vision, narrative and sound). Simple Flying Saucer Mission. What could be easier?

    Flying Saucer misses the mark by thousands of years. Arrives mid-twentieth century. Picks up three, charming men. Earth base now a small-town bank in Illinois. Put them in the bank for a moment, where they will be seen, take them back to where they came from. All this in zero-time. Situation getting worse. Morale is 'falling.' Flying Saucer personnel in advanced stages of enchantment, picking up bad habits, two hours in the bathroom in the morning, all-night parties, drinking, drugs, always humming songs ('working on the changes, sir'), god knows what next. Personnel is not immune to imagination. Affects them like a virus. Next thing you know, some will want to stay ('you know, sir, I'm really getting to like it here'). Some apples." (Robert Ashley)

    From Music From Mills (1986)

  18. Pillars for David Moodey (2007)

    An unreleased, ongoing daily verbal investigation into imaginary scenarios spoken in a stream-of-consciousness manner. Created by Ashely in his studio, 10 Beach Street, New York City, 2007.

  19. Yes, But Is It Edible? (2007)
    Voice – Thomas Buckner

  20. Practical Anarchism (2007)

    Robert Ashley's 'Yes, But Is It Edible?,' a composition for piano and voice dedicated to Thomas Buckner who performs it with the composer. This 27:30 min long piece is a true masterpiece, with Robert Ashley introducing us to creation and coincidence, space and time, private parts and characters, with direct references to the ONCE group and his friends David Behrman, Alvin Lucier, Gordon Mumma, Pauline Oliveros, Terry Riley, 'Blue' Gene Tyranny, George Manupelli, as well as Maria Callas and Patsy Cline, Elvis and Lennon, Monteverdi, pop music, Irish and Jewish new-comer's Broadway musical parody of America, Lloyd-Weber, Saturday Night Life, Chinese opera, mariachi bands, country music and much more. Side D includes 'Practical Anarchism,' a touching homage that Robert Ashley dedicated to Walter Marchetti. Previously published as a text by Alga Marghen in the booklet of the Antibarbarus CD, this is actually the first time ever that this piece for solo voice, performed by the same Robert Ashley, is made available on record.


    'The Wolfman', was composed in early 1964 and first performed on Charlotte Moorman's festival of the avant-garde in New York in the fall of the same year, gaining considerable reputation as a threat to the listener's health. For the occasion instigated by Feldman, Robert Ashley composed a piece of tape music, 'The Wolfamn Tape', to be played along with the vocal performance of 'The Wolfman'. The idea of a tape composition, which is to come out of the same loudspeakers as the voice and the feedback (the main sound source for this composition), is to fill-in the ongoing performance sound and to transform the performance into an elaborate version of the 'drone' under the influence of electronics. The choice of what sounds should be on the tape is determined by the need to have the whole range of frequencies brought into the feedback, but to give those sounds a short duration-in other words, a blizzard of very short sounds across the whole frequency range-so that the illusion of the sounds coming from all parts of the room is preserved. For the performance of 'The Wolfman' recorded here, produced at the University of California at Davis, Robert Ashley used an earlier (1960) tape composition entitled 'The 4th of July'. That composition changes gradually from a parabolic-microphone documentation of a backyard party into a layering of tape loops and tape-head feedback. 'The Wolfman Tape' (1964) is, as descibed above, a tape composition made for a short performance of 'The Wolfman'. It uses tape-speed manipulation and mixes of many layers of 'found' sounds, both from AM radio and from recordings made using different kinds of microphones. 'The Bottleman' was composed in 1960 as music for an experimental film by George Manupelli. The 40 minutes long version preseted here involves contact microphones on a surface that holds a loudspeaker some six feet away. The loudspeaker is broadcasting open-circuit 'hum' (at the American standard of approximately 60 hertz). That pitch is raised slightly through tape manipulation and the result is mixed with vocal sounds and other 'found' sounds played back at various tape speeds. All compositions previously unreleased. The digipak CD comes with a 12 pages booklet including liner notes written by the composer and the complete score of 'The Wolfman', first issued in Source magazine."

    Some Common Observances by Robert Ashley (1972)

    1. On examining the structure of Wolgamot's poem, I have seen that it is possible to pronounce every stanza, without taking a fresh breath. Among other things, given the fact that it was not possible to do otherwise, I successively became convinced that this was the poet's intention. Wolgamot, who I only met later, observed ironically in this regard: "I bet you had difficulty with the last page."

    2. Another problem which I had to solve was the pronunciation of the proper nouns. As I could not pronounce them each time in their original language and, on the other hand, to avoid the usual sing-song way radio announcers have of speaking, I took the unusal decision to read them as though they were in English. In this way, among other things, I believe I underlined the American tone of the poem better, its relations with the 1950's American culture and the embarrassment of the latter in comparison with European culture.

    3. Having linked together the recordins of the individual stanzas, I began to experiment with various accompaniments to the point of imagining a structure of the poem capable of including the entire ambience in which it was immersed, like light, temperature, etc. In fact, this insight is my only real contribution to the poem given the fact that, in no way, did I want to modify it's already perfect form. I have therefore elaborated two different types of accompaniment, one which is a simple surrounding to the vocal structure (used for the first performance in Bremen, 1972), and another where the same structural characteristics of the poem guide the accompaniment, as they do in this recording.

    4. Paul DeMarinis, an expert in Moog Synthesizers, has elaborated seven different modular combinations, each of which can be controlled by programmed impulses. These derive from the sound of the reading of the poem passed through a regeneration high frequency filter and successively translated into a series of command impulses.

    Robert Ashley in UbuWeb Film
    Music With Roots in the Aether
    John Barton Wolgamot's full text of "In Sara, Christ, Mencken..." in UbuWeb Historical