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Improvement (Don Leaves Linda) is the first of four operas about the "American" consciousness. The tetralogy, including Foreign Experiences, eL/Aficionado and Now Eleanor's Idea, is based on the notion of a sequence of events seen from four, different points of view. The operas share principal characters and vocal techniques (including the relationship of the voice to instrumental settings). The singers are used interchangeably as soloists and members of a chorus. The immediacy of choral response evokes the function of the "Greek chorus" as a commentary on the text and action and allows the composer to make rapid changes in "point of view" as an important aspect of the plot. The operas differ, principally, in the language style of the libretto and in the relationship of the music to the presentation of the visual imagery.
Improvement (Don Leaves Linda) is written for seven voices. The orchestral accompaniment is a midi-controlled synthesized harmonic environment. Robert Ashley's scoring technique incorporates a musical plan of melodies, harmonies and vocal assignments into a libretto-score that illustrates the relationship of words to music in a precisely laid-out visual arrangement of the text. This is a refinement of a system of scoring that was developed in Ashley's earlier operas, Perfect Lives and Atalanta (Acts of God) and that is peculiar to the complex requirements of text that characterize his style.
"Whether or not Linda understands her story as an allegory of events and ideas in Jewish history since 1492--as American Jews might understand them--we can never know. One thing is clear from her account (and I can assure that the same holds for the other operas), she speaks as an 'individual.' She is impatient with organizations and with official forms. In this, I think, she is an American." - Robert Ashley