Robert Ashley discusses his opera, “The Old Man Lives in Concrete.”
“The Old Man Lives in Concrete” is epic and novel-like in its scope, its 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, Mr. Ashley speaks about the musical aspects of his text, and how the pace of “The Old Man Lives in Concrete” compares to some of his other operas like “Dust” and “Celestial Excursions.” We discuss the sad state of support for new opera, or new narrative work at all… And as usual, we conclude with the question “Why make music?”
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
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).