Source: Frieze Publishing. This piece is about 4 years old, but previously hard to find.
The composer Robert Ashley died last week at his home in New York, age 83. Though he is best known for radically reinventing opera in the 20th century — most famously in the television opera Perfect Lives in the early 1980s — his life and career had many stages. He was a key part of the legendary ONCE Group in Ann Arbor, beginning in 1961, and formed the Sonic Arts Union in 1966 with fellow composers Alvin Lucier, Gordon Mumma, and David Behrman. In 1969, Ashley became the director of the nascent Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College in California. At Mills during the 1970s, he mentored a generation of groundbreaking artists and composers. Ashley’s last opera, CRASH, which was completed three months before his death, will receive its world premiere at the Whitney Biennial next month, directed by musician and composer Alex Waterman, along with performances of the operas Vidas Perfectas (Perfect Lives revisited in Spanish) and The Trial of Anne Opie Wehrer and Unknown Accomplices for Crimes Against Humanity. Here, 23 of Ashley’s friends and collaborators look back on his life and work.