Ashley in the House

Thinking and writing about Robert Ashley has been an involved, major project for me the past many weeks, and I am close to tying it off. There’s no feeling of relief, because his work is extraordinary, and his loss—which was inevitable—is immense. There is such a dearth of new thinking in opera, exacerbated by the feeling that everyone seems to be working on a new one in the same old romantic tradition, it seems like the future is gone in some way.

Collected links to our Ashley pieces at the Brooklyn Rail are here:

It was gratifying to read the copy from my writers, Jeff Tompkins and Alessandro Cassin, who approached the pieces with open ears and minds and responded sincerely and powerfully. I was fortunate to see the world premiere of Crash, you can read my review at the New York Classical Review.

Yesterday, we were back in the Red Bull Studios to record our podcast for May. I’ll be editing it over the next week, and when done you’ll be able to hear the fascinating and moving conversation we had with Alex Waterman, who directed the Whitney productions, and Amirtha Kidambi, who performed in Crash. Ashley lives on through them.

Some of you may have recordings of the operas, but there’s more to his work. See this page at Amazon that collects not only the music but his published libretto for Perfect Lives, which reads like one of the great American novels, and for an upcoming book that Waterman and Will Holder put together with Ashley’s assistance: Yes, But is it Edible? The book collects two Ashley scores and also is a biography of the man, meant to be performed out loud by two or more readers. What could be more beautiful and humane? Don’t forget Kyle Gann’s essential musical biography, augmented with this page at his site.


Author: gtra1n

I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.