Robert Ashley’s Perfect Life Ends


ashley-at-WTC2.1975Well, it may not have been so perfect, but Perfect Lives, Private Parts was the name of Robert Ashley’s multi-part meditation on life.  It was loosely called an opera, in the way that his contemporary, Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach was an opera, but less so.  Robert Ashley was ambient before Eno, composed avant-garde opera’s years before Philip Glass and did a form of rapping before rapping.  Check out Perfect Lives, Private Parts: The Bar below.  Ashley is from that post-John Cage generation that included David Behrman, Alvin Lucier and LaMonte YoungPerfectLivesBookAshley worked in the regions of the subconscious, those inner murmurings that bubble to the surface between sleep and waking.  Pieces like Automatic Writing created an ambient scrawl of his spoken word, including his uncontrolled murmurings from his Tourette’s Syndrome.  I interviewed Robert Ashley in the late 1980s for the radio series, Totally Wired.  You can hear it here: (Ignore the playlist and address spiel at the end)

Here’s a couple of Ashley’s signature tune.  My favorite remains Perfect Lives, Private Parts: The Bar with it’s psychotic boogie woogie piano from Blue Gene Tyranny and drunken ruminations making brilliant connections.  Unlike a lot of avant-garde composers, Ashley had a wry sense of humor in his work.  Robert Ashley was an American maverick’s who musicians and art cognoscenti knew, but who never rose about the avant-garde surface.  Explore his body of work and you might wonder why.  Robert Ashley had been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and died on 3 March at approximately 1:30pm.

John Diliberto (((echoes)))

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