Robert Ashley

Ashley: Automatic Writing/Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon/She Was A Visitor

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This CD is a welcome re-release of three new music landmarks, previously available only on separate labels. In Automatic Writing (1979), the composer speaks in a free association manner late at night in his lonely apartment, exploring spontaneous speech unfiltered by his normal language behavior ("My mind is censoring my own mind"). The recording level is turned up to maximum level so that he will not have to project his voice, and all the involuntary artifacts of speech, including sub-vocalized material, will be picked up. Transient sounds like the bass beat of music from an adjoining apartment are also incidentally recorded. Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon (1968) from the Wolfman Motor City Review is a sensual and captivating study of random vocal reactions (sung by the vocal trio of Mary Ashley, Mary Lucier, and Barbara Lloyd), guided by the rhythm of tuned water glasses, as a personal story (written by Cynthia Liddell) unfolds about the sense of touch, which, together with the sense of smell, is the most repressed sense in Western society. She Was A Visitor (1967), from the opera That Morning Thing, is performed here by the Brandeis University Chamber Chorus, conducted by Alvin Lucier. This piece describes musically how "rumor" is spread. One primary speaker repetitively chants the phrase "She was a visitor" as each group leader selects phonemes from that line. Each group sustains that individual sound and passes it around to other members of the same group. The amassed sound, a "surface" of normalized little disturbances, begins to resemble airplanes, cars, trains ... perhaps the subatomic world. In certain performances of the opera, the audience was also asked to participate. This is an elegantly simple and revelatory piece from this composer, whose work is often concerned with the relationship of society and language.

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