Performing in Vocal Ensemble: In Celebration of Robert Ashley, at Mills College, on November 1st

Robert Ashley

It is always a pleasure to perform at Mills College, in Oakland, California, which has a world renowned music department, including the Center for Contemporary Music, where many notable 20th and 21st Century composers have been on the faculty, performed, or held artist residencies.

On Saturday, November 1, 2014, at 8:00 p.m. PT, I will be performing in a vocal ensemble that includes Mills College students (from the Contemporary Performance Ensemble) and faculty, and members of the Cornelius Cardew Choir, which is part of a special program, In Celebration of Robert Ashley (1930-2014): A concert honoring the life and work of Robert Ashley, composer, performer, teacher, and Mills faculty (1969-1981), at Littlefield Concert Hall. The piece in which I’m honored to perform is: She Was A Visitor (1966-1967), for speaker and chorus, featuring Steed Cowart of the Mills College faculty as the speaker.

Tickets will be available at the door — tickets are $15.00 for general admission; $10.00 for seniors and non-Mills students; and FREE to Mills students, faculty, staff and alumni (with an AAMC card). For more information, and to buy advance tickets, please visit:

Mills College is located at 5000 MacArthur Blvd., in Oakland, California, and Littlefield Concert Hall is easily accessible from a parking lot near the security booth at the gate. Further instructions are available here.

Robert Ashley

Robert Ashley (1930-2014), one of the leading American composers of the post-Cage generation, is particularly known for his work in new forms of opera. In the 1960s, during his tenure as its director, the ONCE Festival in Ann Arbor presented most of the decade’s pioneers of the performing arts. With the legendary ONCE Group, he developed his first large-scale operas. Along with Alvin Lucier, Gordon Mumma, and David Behrman, he formed the Sonic Arts Union, a group that turned conceptualism toward electronics. Throughout the 1970s, he directed the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College, and produced his first opera for television, the 14-hour Music with Roots in the Aether, based on the work and ideas of seven influential American composers.

In the early 1980s the Kitchen commissioned Ashley’s Perfect Lives, the opera for television that is widely considered the precursor of “music-television.” Stage versions of Perfect Lives, as well as his following operas, Atalanta (Acts of God), Improvement (Don Leaves Linda), Foreign Experiences, eL/Aficionado and Now Eleanor’s Idea toured throughout the US and Canada, Europe and Asia during the 1980s and 1990s. A new group of operas was begun in 1999 when Kanagawa Arts Foundation (Japan) commissioned Dust, which was quickly followed by Celestial Excursions and The Old Man Lives in Concrete. He wrote and recorded his performance-novel, Quicksand (released in novel form by Burning Books). And his final opera, Crash, was completed in December 2013 for premiere at the 2014 Whitney Biennial Exhibition.

Ashley’s book Outside of Time: Ideas About Music (2009), was published by MusikTexte, available from Lovely Music, and Kyle Gann’s biography of Ashley (2012) was published by the University of Illinois Press. Burning Books has published several of his librettos and a large part of his recorded work is available from Lovely Music. More about Robert Ashley: and


Excerpts from SHOOT THE WHALE (1971), a Film by Philip Makanna. Soundtrack composed by ROBERT ASHLEY with “BLUE” GENE TYRANNY and COSTANZO

in memoriam … CRAZY HORSE (symphony) (1963) for twenty or more wind or string or other sustaining instruments
. Fred Frith: conductor; Music Improvisation Ensemble II, and guests

She Was A Visitor (1966-1967) for speaker and chorus
. Steed Cowart: speaker; Contemporary Performance Ensemble, with members of the Cornelius Cardew Choir and other guests

Title Withdrawn (1976) excerpt, Music theater on video tape
. Robert Ashley: voice, electronics, and Polymoog; Mimi Johnson: voice; 
David Peterson and Donald Renzulli: signers; Philip Makanna: Director and Camera; Jerry Pearsall: Video Recordist and Technical Director

String Quartet Describing the Motions of Large Real Bodies (1971-1972) for string quartet with electronics
. Katharine Austin (Kathy Morton) and Wendy Reid: violins; Chris Brown: viola; Maggi Payne: cello; John Bischoff and James Fei: electronics

The Wolfman (1964) for amplified voice, tape and electronics Laetitia Sonami: voice; James Fei: electronics.

Pre-concert Events:

Ensemble Room 5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. (PT):

Perfect Lives (1976-1983), an opera for television in seven episodes. 
Video by John Sanborn. Robert Ashley: solo voice; Jill Kroesen and David Van Tieghem: chorus; “Blue” Gene Tyranny: keyboards; David Van Tieghem: non-keyboard percussion; Peter Gordon: music producer; Paul Shorr: soundtrack producer; 
Dean Winkler: video synthesis and video tape editor; Mary Perillo: associate director/producer; Jacqueline Humbert: costumes; Mary Ashley: design collaborator; Carlota Schoolman: producer for The Kitchen.

Room 271 (Classroom 1) 7:15 p.m.-8:00 p.m. (PT):

In Sara Mencken Christ and Beethoven There Were Men and Women (1972-1973) for tape, voice and electronics 
by Robert Ashley and Paul DeMarinis; text by John Barton Wolgamot.

Foyer (of the Littlefield Concert Hall), 7:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. (PT):

Slideshow: archive photographs of That Morning Thing, 1969 performance photography by Dennis Galloway; Music with Roots in the Aether: 1976 production photography by Patricia Kelley; Perfect Lives: 1981 performance photography and slideshow by Maggi Payne.

Special thanks to Mimi Johnson, Paul DeMarinis, Patricia Kelley, Philip Makanna, 
Katharine Morton, and Patrice Scanlon.

You may want to read the very interesting Program Notes, including some by Robert Ashley. You can find several video clips of his work at the bottom of the Program page.

For the rest of the upcoming 2014-2015 concert schedule at Mills College, please visit:

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