Roulette TV had a such wealth of wonderful material from our discussion with composer Robert Ashley and the April 2012 performances of his opera "The Old Man Lives in Concrete", that we made an additional RTV episode... We had yet to circulate it publicly, and with the news of his passing earlier this week, feel compelled to share it now.
"The Old Man Lives in Concrete" is epic and novel-like in it's scope, it's songs and interludes equalling more than 10 hours all told. At Roulette, Mr. Ashley's ensemble performed a 4 hour version, spread across 2 nights. Here we see excerpts from it's second half and culmination.
In this episode, we spoke to Mr. Ashley about the musical aspects of his text, and how the pace of "The Old Man Lives in Concrete" compares to some of his other opera's like "DUST" and "Celestial Excursions". We also discussed the sad state of support for new opera, or new narrative work at all... And as usual, we concluded with the question "Why make music?".
Iconoclast composer Robert Ashley revisits his opera, Concrete, with eight new songs. Each evening’s performance features four solo songs (Portraits) about ordinary people who did extraordinary things for which they’ll never be recognized, alternating with ensemble sections (Meditations) with short solos sung by Ashley (as The Observer).
Robert Ashley, a distinguished figure in American contemporary music, holds an international reputation for his work in new forms of opera and multi-disciplinary projects. His recorded works are acknowledged classics of language in a musical setting. He pioneered opera-for-television with such revolutionary pieces as Music with Roots in the Aether , a 14-hour opera/documentary about the work and ideas of seven American composers and Perfect Lives , an opera in seven half-hour episodes commissioned by the Kitchen and broadcast in Britain, Germany, Austria, Spain, and the US. Distinctly original in style, and distinctly American in their subject matter and use of the American language, Ashley's work is "so vast in their vision that they are comparable only to Wagner's Ring cycle or Stockhausen's seven-evening Licht cycle. In form and content, in musical, vocal, literary and media technique, they are, however, comparable to nothing else." (The Los Angeles Times).
Libretto, Music and Direction: Robert Ashley
Singers: Sam Ashley, Thomas Buckner, Jacqueline Humbert, Joan La Barbara and Robert Ashley
Electronic orchestra: Robert Ashley
Mixing and live electronics: Tom Hamilton
Produced by Jim Staley
Directed by Matt Mehlan
Edited by Wolfgang Daniel
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