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A 1996 CD compiling three early Ashley works from the years 1967-79 -- some of his most experimental and out-there works. A classic electronic music collection and an ideal intro into the somewhat foreboding oeuvre of Robert Ashley's recorded works. The title piece is a 46-minute classic from 1979, which rather famously formed the basis for Nurse With Wound's A Missing Sense. Steven Stapleton's commentary upon this summarizes the intense vibe of this recording: "A Missing Sense was originally conceived as a private tape to accompany my taking of LSD. When in that particular state, Robert Ashley's Automatic Writing was the only music I could actually experience without feeling claustrophobic and paranoid. We played it endlessly; it seemed to become part of the room, perfectly blending with the late night city ambience and the 'breathing' of the building." The piece features the voices of Ashley and Mimi Johnson, with electronics and Polymoog backing, with a switching circuit designed and built by Paul DeMarinis. A fascinating and mysterious work focused on "involuntary speech". The second piece on this CD is "Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon" from 1968. It features the voice of Cynthia Liddell, backed by singers, bells and crackle. Originally issued on the Mainstream label, as an excerpt for a theatre work for amplified voices and tape. The final piece, "She Was a Visitor" is from 1967, originally issued on the infamous electronic compilation Extended Voices (CBS Odyssey), featuring experimental vocals works. Performed by the The Brandeis University Chamber Chorus, directed by Alvin Lucier.
Composed in recorded form over a period of five years, Automatic Writing is the result of Robert Ashley's fascination with involuntary speech. He has recorded and analyzed the repeated lines of his own mantra and extracted four musical characters. The result is quiet, mysterious, melancholy and an early form of ambient music.
Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon, and She Was a Visitor are excerpts from an opera entitled That Morning Thing that was composed in 1966Ð67, as a result of Ashley's impulse to express something about the suicides of three friends, in particular the intellectual problem of the idea of suicide. The opera takes the form of an alternation of scenes of rationalizations (or explanations) and scenes of descriptions.
Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon is a woman's description of a sexual experience. It is Ashley's attempt "to demonstrate the dichotomy between the rational-whatever can be explained in words-and its opposite-which is not irrational or a-rational, but which cannot be explained in words." The lead voice, the processed back-up chorus, the recurring bell tone, and the pervading tape hiss, create an unsettling mood.
She Was a Visitor is another form of description, it is intended to be understood as a form of rumor. The chorus is divided into groups, each headed by a leader. A lone speaker repeats the title sentence throughout the entire performance. The separate phonemes of this sentence are picked up freely by the group leaders and are relayed to the group members, who sustain them softly and for the duration of one natural breath. The time lag between the group leaders' phoneme choices and those phonemes being picked up by members of the group produces a staggered, chant-like effect, with the sounds moving outward from the nearest performer to the farthest.Booklet notes by Robert Ashley.