*350 copeis limited edition* In the 1960s, Robert Ashley pioneered the American avant garde with the ONCE Group and festivals, before irrefutably changing the face of American opera later in the 20th century. Buckner, in addition to running the fabulous 1750 Arch record label in the 1970s and 80s, is a noted baritone who has collaborated for decades with the likes of Roscoe Mitchell, Annea Lockwood, and the late Noah Creshevsky, amongst countless others. The title of the album, Spontaneous Musical Invention, refers to Ashley’s method of instructing the singer to do what he called “spontaneous musical invention based on the declamation of the text.” A vocal practice that Thomas Buckner perfected over the 33 years that he collaborated with Ashley. First performing in Ashley’s 1984 opera Atalanta (Acts of God), Buckner continued on as an integral performer in the ensemble until Ashley’s death in 2014.
The album is composed of two halves, the first is a new rendering of Ashley’s second opera Atalanta (Acts of God). Robert Ashley wrote about ten hours of music for the opera Atalanta, divided into three acts: ‘Max', for the surrealist artist Max Ernst; ‘Willard', for the composer’s uncle, Willard Reynolds, a great story teller; and ‘Bud', for Bud Powell, the great jazz pianist and composer. One is invited to construct a version using any material from these ten hours. Over the years they worked together, Thomas Buckner commissioned three reworkings of arias from Atalanta that he could perform in concert: the ‘Odalisque' aria from Max, 'The Mystery of the River' from ‘Willard', & 'The Producer Speaks' from ‘Bud'. So this first section of the album is one of many possible versions of Atalanta, albeit in strikingly different versions from the originals.
The second section of the album is dubbed Occasional Pieces, and holds two unpublished Ashley works. ‘When Famous Last Words Fail You' & 'World War III Just the Highlights' are not from any Ashley opera. However, each is highly dramatic and theatrical. They were written as standalone pieces for Thomas Buckner. Buckner’s distinct vocal cadence projects the sharp wit and wry storytelling of Ashley’s librettos.
A portion of the record was recorded live at Roulette in Brooklyn, NY, at an intimate memorial concert held for Robert Ashley in 2014. Spontaneous Musical Invention, in essence, functions as a tribute to both exceptional artists, and to their decades of collaboration.
Vinyl edition comes with a 24 page 12” x 8.5” booklet of Ashley librettos, scores, & program notes, with an introduction by Alvin Lucier.