Private Parts: The Record is the only one on CD. Very minimal, all about Ashley's voice though I'm into the tabla/moog accompanyment.
The Bar, 1981 - is more of the same but set to an insanely catchy lounge-piano drum machine riff which memorizes itself
Music Word Fire And I Would Do It Again (Coo Coo): The Lessons, 1981 - is the disco number. Reminds me in some ways of the Black Dice "Cone Toaster" 12" but much much stranger, a constant disco pulse with prepared piano solos and very strange moog sequencer patterns constantly turning left, and lots of elliptical vocal chanting & performance art narration... it is a crime that these aren't out on CD, every time I DJ these out, people do lose it. Couldn't live without this one either.
I also like the versions on the 3 CD set, but they work much better in the context of the 3.5 hour video version. Seeing Ashley recite these lines in the context of his baffling hand gestures and gold glitter strewn through his hair is the way to hear this music.
― (Jon L), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 23:49 (9 years ago) Permalink
Atalanta (Acts of God), 1985: long stretches of this are among the most amazing things he's ever done: mainly, the last two 'Anecdote with Chorale' sections. Each singer keeps assuming madly different vocal personas, and they fade in and out of the mix at different times; you could imagine someone with 20 different arias from different centuries in different languages all being vaguely faded up and down in the mix over strange casiotone & organ soundbeds with an out-of-tune doowop chorus occasionally punctuating, but you'd still have no idea why this such an emotionally extreme piece of music.
The 30 minute video accompanyment, Atalanta Strategy, is my favorite video of his. Abstract image montage, always on the edge of making sense.
― (Jon L), Wednesday, 2 February 2005 00:02 (9 years ago) Permalink
That's a pretty good description. This was precisely the sound of electric organ/electric piano that I always made fun of, until I hear this, and somehow I just love the way it sounds. Music Word Fire is really good too, although I didn't like it at first.
I've never heard the Wolfman.
(Sorry to interrupt milton's more thorough annotated discography.)"She Was a Visitor" is kind of a nice, what, Jackson MacLowesque composition, where the "chorus" takes different sounds from that sentence, and I forget exactly where it goes. Maybe nowhere. I don't know if that's available on CD. (Probably not.) It used to be a staple of the Relache Ensemble.
― RS £aRue (rockist_scientist), Wednesday, 2 February 2005 00:05 (9 years ago) Permalink
― RS £aRue (rockist_scientist), Wednesday, 2 February 2005 00:08 (9 years ago) Permalink
"She Was a Visitor" is very simple; one close miked person repeating the sentence every few seconds, while a large mixed chorus very slowly hold and stretch out the phonemes for five minutes, creating a shifting Ligeti-ish drone. I recommend timestretching the piece back down to 15 seconds, it sounds crazy.
Improvement has one great piece: the dialog between the doctor and the patient, track 4 on disc 2.
― (Jon L), Wednesday, 2 February 2005 00:13 (9 years ago) Permalink
― RS £aRue (rockist_scientist), Wednesday, 2 February 2005 00:15 (9 years ago) Permalink
Maybe I meant Perfect Lives...are they the same opera? The one where he says "These are stories from the corn belt and the people who live in it (OR ON IT)" at the beginning of each segment!
― Tim Ellison (Tim Ellison), Wednesday, 2 February 2005 00:16 (9 years ago) Permalink
The thing I like about his vocal delivery; all the accents on the words and sentences are in the wrong places. There are tons of emotional signifiers, but it's an obstacle course trying to unpack them because he's saying them in an almost impossible fashion.
Saying any word thirty times in a row reduces the word to a sound, and distances you from the reflex that associates it instantly with a 'meaning' without having to think too hard about the code: imagine listening to someone who makes every word sound as if you've just heard it thirty times in a row: you recognize every single word, but you can no longer tell what the hell the sentences mean anymore. After a few minutes, listening to Ashley talk sends you into the zone.
I must admit; recent operas are increasingly Earthbound. eL/Aficionado, Dust, Your Money My Life Goodbye... I could see how they'd make a terrible first impression.
If you like Automatic Writing and want to try the operas, the best place to start is probably Yellow Man With Heart With Wings.
― (Jon L), Wednesday, 2 February 2005 00:29 (9 years ago) Permalink
I wish he had a talk show or something. I think I know what you mean. I probably mentioned before, but I overheard him talking during a music festival, and his ordinary speech didn't sound so different from his delivery as a performer. I just remember him saying to someone he was talking to: "That is. . . su-blime." (I wish I had been more of a creepy fan and hung around him just to overhear him talking.)
― RS £aRue (rockist_scientist), Wednesday, 2 February 2005 00:34 (9 years ago) Permalink
I've met him once, it doesn't seem to be an assumed persona...
― (Jon L), Wednesday, 2 February 2005 00:41 (9 years ago) Permalink
― john'n'chicago, Wednesday, 2 February 2005 02:31 (9 years ago) Permalink
― Drew Daniel (Drew Daniel), Wednesday, 2 February 2005 02:45 (9 years ago) Permalink
― jed_ (jed), Wednesday, 2 February 2005 02:55 (9 years ago) Permalink
― jed_ (jed), Wednesday, 2 February 2005 03:00 (9 years ago) Permalink
String Quartet Describing the Notions of Large Real Bodies / How Can I Tell The Difference? -- two pieces from 1972-3 released on alga marghen a few years ago. String Quartet = one violin multitracked four times, played with the bow held down on bridge with as much pressure as possible and very long (5-10 minute) strokes. this sound fed through gates and doubled with short delays. Difference is two variations on the first piece, performed live in the tunnels on the coast of the Marin Headlands; subtle scrapes and drones join the violins, along with the echoey sounds of a motorcycle rider, far away in another part of the tunnels. A little patience goes a long way with this disc; it's maddening for five minutes, but fantastic after thirty. especially the last track; only one violin, in the tunnel, slowly overwhelmed by rumbling, scraping and eventually a timid electronic organ drone. Definitely the closest precursor to Automatic Writing.
― (Jon L), Wednesday, 2 February 2005 07:59 (9 years ago) Permalink
I think I'll go with 'yello man...' and 'atlanta...' for now.
(I might do a similar thread on alvin lucier soon - I own 'I am sitting...' and that's it)
'People who lived through these performances have good reason to find 80's noise music boring, this is louder, better, fiercer, more insane in every way.'
it would be awesome to see this live or to see other performers tackle it bcz its an awesome piece of music.
thanks for everyone's comments.
― Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Wednesday, 2 February 2005 08:25 (9 years ago) Permalink
― wordyrappington (wordyrappington), Wednesday, 2 February 2005 16:36 (9 years ago) Permalink
― milton parker (Jon L), Wednesday, 7 September 2005 02:25 (9 years ago) Permalink
(guess I should do an update: after reading what drew said all those months ago I did turn up the volume on 'automatic writing', it is the kind of piece that wd make me think it best to hear it quietly to fully absorb its creepy undercurrent but its a lovely surprise to find those basslines underneath) (got hold of 'your money my life' on the cheap but didn't really care for it at the time otherwise i wd've revived, but will pull it out again)
― Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Friday, 4 November 2005 22:01 (9 years ago) Permalink
Celestial Excursions is even further in the direction of Dust. Less surrealism, more direct sentimentality, the speakers all take turn telling narratives about the eccentric & elderly. I'm sure this is incredible live, on record I'm even more easily distracted from it than I was with Dust. I'm glad I have it but I'd certainly recommend Atalanta or Yellow Man With Heart With Wings for later Ashley well before this.
And Lovely really needs to issue The Bar & Music Word Fire on a single CD, that's urgent.
― milton parker (Jon L), Friday, 4 November 2005 22:44 (9 years ago) Permalink
― C.D., Saturday, 5 November 2005 07:22 (9 years ago) Permalink
― C.D., Saturday, 5 November 2005 08:06 (9 years ago) Permalink
thx to all again -- goes without saying these operas must be performed, hopefully one or two of these are on a small enough scale so that we don't have to rely on the traditional opera houses to take this on.
― Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Saturday, 5 November 2005 10:29 (9 years ago) Permalink
the Lucier and Oliveros interviews are particualrly headsnapping if you're bandwidth-pinched, but these are best taken in sequence, there's a reason he calls the series an opera. I'm ordering the book from Lovely, I need the transcripts. I've watched each of them at least twice by now. If I'd seen them in time, I would have voted for these in the ILE 'favorite films of the 70's' poll.
The OHM: Pioneers of Electronic Music box set was just re-released with a 20 track DVD -- three of the tracks are excerpts from Ashley's series.
― milton parker (Jon L), Sunday, 6 November 2005 23:25 (9 years ago) Permalink
― blunt (blunt), Monday, 7 November 2005 01:20 (9 years ago) Permalink
― sleeve (sleeve), Monday, 7 November 2005 03:27 (9 years ago) Permalink
You're definitely right, though -- now that you've mentioned it, it's clear, though it sounds like it's coming from four rooms over. And it comes in and out of the mix at different volumes & moments independent of Ashley's speech, so it wasn't just printed on the tape of his vocal performance, it was obviously captured and strategically mixed in at various points of the piece.
― milton parker (Jon L), Monday, 7 November 2005 04:53 (9 years ago) Permalink
― milton parker (Jon L), Monday, 7 November 2005 04:54 (9 years ago) Permalink
this is a great interview
ROBERT ASHLEY: Well, the problem in discussing hip-hop with somebody who doesn't like hip-hop is that they don't hear the melodies. There's no difference in the quality of the melody in any good hip-hop record now. There are so many I can't even name them. But there's no difference in the quality of the melody between that song and something like Billie Holiday for instance. It's just that the world has changed, the street language has changed and now you have to tune our ears to be able to hear that the very best hip-hop singers are singing exactly in tune. It might be going a little too fast; the melody might be going a little too fast for you to perceive it as melody, but there's no doubt that there's melody..
― milton parker (Jon L), Monday, 7 November 2005 05:08 (9 years ago) Permalink
― harley fordham, Monday, 1 May 2006 08:53 (8 years ago) Permalink
i've posted on ilm about five times, but i figured i'd chime in here--
got a promo for 'now eleanor's idea' this week and am enjoying it pretty well so far. as far as comparisons, it's not nearly as frightening as 'foreign experiences'; it's actually a lot like 'dust' in texture but more expansive, more desert-like (makes sense--the libretto is about a woman who finds her true calling in a low-rider community in new mexico). anyway, yeah, i've become near-obsessed with ashley in the past year and a half; this is pretty welcome right now.
― mike powell, Saturday, 15 September 2007 13:08 (7 years ago) Permalink
the libretto is about a woman who finds her true calling in a low-rider community in new mexico
Haha, this sounds like it could be my soundtrack for 2008.
― Rockist Scientist, Saturday, 15 September 2007 13:14 (7 years ago) Permalink
By coincidence, the first page of youtube hits for "Robert Ashley" turns up this story about a Robert Ashley in New Mexico, but it's not that one:
― Rockist Scientist, Saturday, 15 September 2007 13:21 (7 years ago) Permalink
Now Eleanor's Idea is fantastic. An opera about a community of Mexican Americans who practice their relilgion through the design of elaborately painted low riders. The Mexican monologues floating through the mix talking about their lives in the 2nd section is new territory, and Joan LaBarbara goes off in the final section.
Not entirely new territory actually -- now that Now Eleanor's Idea and Foreign Experiences are out, it makes Yellow Man With Heart With Wings seem more like the crucial departure point for all the 90's work -- bits of the text from it actually turn up verbatim towards the end of Foreign Experiences -- it's good to finally have access to the larger picture. YMWHWW is the key album for anyone who's a fan of his 70's records looking to get into the later operas, it unlocks the other ones
Foreign Experiences is finally catching up with me as well -- it's much more of a Sam Ashley showcase. It seems to be a re-performance / remix of the original 90's version of the piece, with Sam & Jacqueline Humbert are the only two clear voices, much spacier electronic music by Sam, and completely bizarre fragmented samples of the original chorus creeping around in the mix. And the libretto is basically about Ashley's experience at Mills College in the 70's, so there are tons of familiar little hints if you've been to the campus.
Celestial Excursions had a great libretto but the music threw me a bit, the last two are definitely back on track (though I'd still go through the 70's stuff before going to them)
― Milton Parker, Monday, 22 October 2007 22:32 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Milton Parker, Monday, 22 October 2007 22:33 (7 years ago) Permalink
An opera about a community of Mexican Americans who practice their relilgion through the design of elaborately painted low riders.
oh i love that man.
― jed_, Monday, 22 October 2007 22:55 (7 years ago) Permalink
fwiw my favourite of the operas is definitely "Improvement (Don Leaves Linda)" but that could be because the 2-10 minute sections allow for me to spread the listening experience out and to access it more easily, somehow. "eL/Aficionado" is another big favourite from the more recent stuff. i haven't yet been able to penetrate "Celestial Experiences" or "Dust".
― jed_, Monday, 22 October 2007 23:00 (7 years ago) Permalink
In Sarah Mencken, Christ and Beethoven, there were men and women is so unbelievably beautiful.
― I know, right?, Friday, 16 November 2007 19:21 (7 years ago) Permalink
I know, right?
I've yet to be disappointed by anything I've heard of his.
― ian, Friday, 16 November 2007 20:37 (7 years ago) Permalink
Very really grand men and women.
― I know, right?, Saturday, 17 November 2007 16:31 (7 years ago) Permalink
I listened to the 2nd half of Automatic Writing before bed last night, and brought Private Parts to listen to today. Those two are probably my favorites. SMC&B definitely comes close too--i was so happy the day i found that LP.
― ian, Saturday, 17 November 2007 16:46 (7 years ago) Permalink
Three men have loved her. One a decade, on the average.
― ian, Saturday, 23 February 2008 21:04 (6 years ago) Permalink
I really need to dig up a copy of YMWHWW. I also want to dig up the VHS tapes for Private Parts; I think some distributors still have 'em but I don't exactly have $75 to shell out right now.
― ian, Saturday, 23 February 2008 21:05 (6 years ago) Permalink
they put out 'Private Parts' as a 2 DVD $50 set. if you're looking to spend, my favorite of his videos is 'Atalanta Strategy' though
Matmos is covering 'The Backyard' tonight at the Stone
― Milton Parker, Saturday, 23 February 2008 21:41 (6 years ago) Permalink
seriously? damn, i should go to that.
― ian, Saturday, 23 February 2008 22:39 (6 years ago) Permalink
wait, milton p, did you play at the stone LAST night??
― ian, Saturday, 23 February 2008 22:40 (6 years ago) Permalink
nope, didn't play the stone last night
went to see Ashley's solo performance at Issue Project Room on feb 26th. it was an hour long reading of a paper he wrote in the late 70's about his work with involuntary speech that led to the creation of Automatic Writiing, implications, self-doubt, what it taught him about history. His voice was treated with heavy reverb that emphasized two resonant tones in the room, but it always stayed under the point of actual feedback. I hope he publishes that paper, as usual it was filled with incredible one-liners and epiphanies that you often miss while listening because his voice is so hypnotic and disarming, it can be difficult to hold your attention on the meaning, you're too busy listening to the sound
that was my reaction to Matmos' cover of 'The Backyard' as well -- Martin read the text in his own voice instead of attempting any simulation of Ashley's tone, and drew built more of an insistent but mellow rhythm out of that Tabla drum machine (same one they used on the title track of their new album, they're getting their mileage). their version isn't going for the same feeling of layered mystery, but the straightforward delivery of the text shows just how coherent & beautiful the story is, it clarifies things.
new Ashley album performed by another group: http://www.unsounds.com/releases/15uframe.html
& more evidence that Ashley's various lectures collected in one volume -- http://www.zsearch.org/text/ashley/ashley.html
― Milton Parker, Friday, 7 March 2008 21:58 (6 years ago) Permalink
milton, how is that jaqueline humbert record? I think I want to get that.
― Drew Daniel, Friday, 7 March 2008 22:33 (6 years ago) Permalink
I love her voice so much & the idea of Tenney / Lucier / LaBarbara / Ashley all writing cabaret songs for her always sounded great but I still haven't heard it
― Milton Parker, Friday, 7 March 2008 22:45 (6 years ago) Permalink
i finally snagged the vinyl of "Private Parts" in near mint condition for $25 off ebay. postage was pricey (from the US) but it's great to have and i consider it a bargain. The recent remaster does seem to turn down the vocal and turn up the tabla and piano and i prefer the way that one sounds. much as i love Ashley's voice i think it's too loud on the vinyl i just got.
i also got "In Sarah, Mencken..." on vinyl from discogs.
― jed_, Thursday, 20 March 2008 19:17 (6 years ago) Permalink
I put The Backyard on a mix for gf just a few hours ago.
― Trip Maker, Saturday, 25 August 2012 00:57 (2 years ago) Permalink
The Park vs The Backyard POLL
(and thanks v much for the lyrics - have looked for them on internet before but to no avail)
― bidfurd, Saturday, 25 August 2012 09:50 (2 years ago) Permalink
Bob Ashley, David Behrman, Chris Mann and Alvin Lucier give a FREE concert in honor of John Cage at The New School on September 7 at 7 pm. 66 West 12th Street.
― one dis leads to another (ian), Friday, 7 September 2012 19:59 (2 years ago) Permalink
if only i knew before now i could have taken time off work :(
So, has anyone read the Kyle Gann book on Ashley? Came out in November apparently... wanting to order it from Amazon.
― i guess i'd just rather listen to canned heat? (ian), Sunday, 28 April 2013 00:26 (1 year ago) Permalink
The design looks Chinese.
― _Rudipherous_, Tuesday, 4 February 2014 19:13 (10 months ago) Permalink
― scott seward, Tuesday, 4 March 2014 03:19 (9 months ago) Permalink
It would be a thrill to make work at least half as good as he did
― continually topping myself (flamboyant goon tie included), Tuesday, 4 March 2014 03:33 (9 months ago) Permalink
so so so so sad. I feel like some of the deepest connections I have made on this website have been over The Record. This record. THE Record! All of his records! Ian, Joe, Plax, others - all in my thoughts now. Robert Ashley, I Love you.
― i lost my shoes on acid (jed_), Tuesday, 4 March 2014 04:01 (9 months ago) Permalink
― Michael F Gill, Tuesday, 4 March 2014 04:24 (9 months ago) Permalink
oh man :-/
― (⊙_⊙?) (Alan N), Tuesday, 4 March 2014 04:26 (9 months ago) Permalink
yah sad faces
― Lamp, Tuesday, 4 March 2014 04:31 (9 months ago) Permalink
Pretty much speechless.
― Oblique Strategies, Tuesday, 4 March 2014 04:36 (9 months ago) Permalink
― Milton Parker, Tuesday, 4 March 2014 05:09 (9 months ago) Permalink
in the beginning there were rocks and on those rocks with harder rocks we learned to make a million bruises to spell out things like 'we were here' and 'watch your water' -- they only moved it, the idea of bruises adding up to something, from rocks to skin
― Milton Parker, Tuesday, 4 March 2014 05:12 (9 months ago) Permalink
pale purplish blue to pale violetlighter than dusk bluecivil twilight
― the tune was space, Tuesday, 4 March 2014 05:32 (9 months ago) Permalink
― bamcquern, Tuesday, 4 March 2014 05:50 (9 months ago) Permalink
Sad news to wake up to. RIP
― Ward Fowler, Tuesday, 4 March 2014 07:25 (9 months ago) Permalink
― the ghosts of dead pom-bears (a passing spacecadet), Tuesday, 4 March 2014 09:14 (9 months ago) Permalink
― xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 4 March 2014 09:47 (9 months ago) Permalink
RIP Mr Ashley, you made some amazing music.
― emil.y, Tuesday, 4 March 2014 12:55 (9 months ago) Permalink
didn't wanna open this thread
― sleeve, Wednesday, 5 March 2014 15:33 (9 months ago) Permalink
I'm glad someone's finally put this version of 'The Backyard' on youtube so I can share it with everybody and maybe someone can explain to me why it kills me every time.
― Merdeyeux, Thursday, 6 March 2014 00:48 (9 months ago) Permalink
I know the NYT can take its time for an obit on occasion but this is getting embarrassing for them
― Milton Parker, Thursday, 6 March 2014 19:12 (9 months ago) Permalink
― Milton Parker, Friday, 7 March 2014 08:10 (9 months ago) Permalink
You are slain because of the tabla playing, which is virtuosic and passionate and threatens to explode out of the not-that-simple repetitive pattern but doesn't explode so much as slide around it and through it and into simpler and simultaneously more complicated patterns and because that combined with that text and Ashley's reading of it is just too fucking much.
― Three Word Username, Friday, 7 March 2014 09:41 (9 months ago) Permalink
― plax (ico), Friday, 7 March 2014 20:38 (9 months ago) Permalink
My perfect introduction to Robert Ashley-- though I didn't know it was him til years later-- was in a car in San Francisco when I was 20. My older brother (then a San Franciscan) had driven me up to Muir Woods and we were stuck in traffic on the way back, all the way over the Golden Gate bridge. We channel surfing and we suddenly hit upon a station playing "Private Parts" and were too transfixed to change channels. My brother was dismissive, he said it was typical San Francisco listening. I asked him what genre it was and he said "acid jazz, I think?" (Later, when I heard real acid jazz: "if this is acid jazz, what was that talking guy?") It was so moving on first listen how such emotional highs and lows were created in such a static sonic environment. I wish I had kids so I could play this music for them
― continually topping myself (flamboyant goon tie included), Friday, 7 March 2014 21:03 (9 months ago) Permalink
I asked him what genre it was and he said "acid jazz, I think?"
People say the funniest things part x6382462691
― xyzzzz__, Friday, 7 March 2014 21:56 (9 months ago) Permalink
― Milton Parker, Wednesday, 12 March 2014 23:20 (9 months ago) Permalink
Live perf of Automatic writing on the 30th at Cafe Oto (where else?).
Wanna go but it does clash with another recital :-(
― xyzzzz__, Friday, 14 March 2014 16:39 (9 months ago) Permalink
I should go to that. I missed the Ashley weekend they had there in 2012 and I've been annoyed at myself since.
― a peace sign that sent numerous young children into tears of joy (Merdeyeux), Friday, 14 March 2014 16:54 (9 months ago) Permalink
― Milton Parker, Wednesday, 21 May 2014 03:22 (6 months ago) Permalink