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Anorak | Listen To All Parts Of Robert Ashley’s Perfect Lives – The Televised American Opera

Listen To All Parts Of Robert Ashley’s Perfect Lives – The Televised American Opera

by | 5th, March 2014

ROBERT Ashley (1930-2014). The composer was 83.

 

robert ashley

 

 

Kyle Gann, who recently wrote biography  said of the Michigan-born composer, who in 1958 created the Cooperative Studio for Electronic Music , a pointer to his eperiments with audio synthesis.

“Bob was one of the most amazing composers of the 20th century, and the greatest genius of 20th-century opera. I don’t know how long it’s going to take the world to recognize that.”

Thanks to the internet, the past never goes away. You can hear some of Ashley’s work in full.

 

 

In 1997, he spoke to Furious :

PSF: How did you decide to make your works as all being operas?

In 1975, there were no operas in America. I was interested in opera and it seemed to me that the only possible theatre for contemporary opera would be television. So I started working towards a kind of television kind of opera. I started designed the work so that it would be usable on television. I think it’s still true.

PSF: How did you see television as an ideal medium for operas?

It’s contemporary. It’s new. Many more people watch television than go to opera houses. There aren’t any opera houses in the United States. The possibilities for contemporary opera are very small. I thought when I started, it looked more promising (to work with television). Now, in the last few years, television has become much more conversative. But I still think there’s going to be a marriage of television and some form of opera. It might not happen in my lifetime but I still think it’s inevitable. The whole idea of the opera house is so dated anyway. It’s such a nineteenth century idea. Because of that probably, there aren’t any to speak of (maybe 3 or 4). It doesn’t really allow the idea of opera to really grow. I thought if I could get television interested in opera, it would make a kind of new thing that would allow composers to build a whole new repertoire.

It was more promising fifteen or twenty years ago than it is now. The first opera I did, Music With Its Roots in Ether (1976), has been broadcasted a lot. The next one I did, Perfect Lives (1980), was produced by Channel 4 in Great Britian and was shown there for two years and then throughout Europe but only parts of it have been broadcast in the United States. Now in ’97, television is so conserative that it doesn’t look promising. But I think it’ll change back. I think it’ inevitable that there has to be some new genre in television. Television goes through these periods of incorporating new things. First there was live comedy then there were soap operas then there was news and now there’s a lot of television about sports. We went through a period of MTV with pop music videos too. Television always needs new materials and it’s just a matter of time until there’s the right audience for new work that’s not just pop music. When that happens, it’ll be a very good time for composers to do serious big, narrative pieces.

PSF: Why do think there has been resistance to this kind of idea in American television?

Because they’re stupid I guess. Opera on television in Europe is very important. If you think about it in the broadest sense: a lot of the dramas made in India with music are practically operas. They’re not sung but they have a very big appeal. I don’t know why American television people are so stupid but at the moment, they just seem to have some sort of a block. They just do what they do and they do it for a certain number of years. Then it wears out and they try something else. It’s just a matter of time I think.

 

 

Brian Robison, of Cornell University, has posted on YouTube 4 American Composers, directed by

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Posted: 5th, March 2014 | In: Key Posts, Music Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink