A distinguished figure in American contemporary music, Robert Ashley 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.
Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan on March 28, 1930, Robert Ashley was educated at the University of Michigan (Mus.B., 1952, Music Theory) and at the Manhattan School of Music (Mus.M., 1954, Piano and Composition.) From 1957 to 1960 he continued to study Composition and Acoustics at the University of Michigan’s Speech Research Laboratories (psycho-acoustics and cultural speech patterns), and was employed as a Research Assistant in Acoustics at the Architectural Research Laboratory.
During the 1960s, Ashley organized the ONCE Festival, the annual festival of contemporary performing arts in Ann Arbor which, from 1961 to 1969, presented most of the decade’s pioneers of the performing arts. In 1980, the Kitchen (New York) commissioned Perfect Lives, an opera for television in seven half-hour episodes. After developing the opera in live tour performances throughout the US, Canada and Europe, Perfect Lives was co-produced with Great Britain’s arts network, Channel Four. First broadcast in Great Britain in April 1984, Perfect Lives has since been seen on television in Austria, Germany, Spain and the United States and has been shown at film and video festivals around the world. It is widely considered to be the pre-cursor of “music-television.”
Robert Ashley is the subject of a film by Peter Greenaway, one of a series entitled Four American Composers, Transatlantic Films (London) and Mystic Fire Video (New York). Burning Books (Santa Fe) with Archer Fields (New York) published Perfect Lives, October 1991. Music with Roots in the Aether was published by MusikTexte (Cologne). Ashley’s book Outside of Time: Ideas about Music, was published by MusikTexte in 2009. Kyle Gann’s biography of Robert Ashley was published by the University of Illinois Press in November 2012.
Ashley died on March 3, 2014. (Source: http://www.robertashley.org/)