Robert Ashley Part 2 “Music With Roots in the Aether”

Robert Ashley, the groundbreaking educator and composer whom I’ve written about previously, also created “Music with Roots in the Aether,” a video time capsule of the best avante-garde and experimental composers of the mid-70’s– Phillip Glass, Terry Riley, Alvin Lucier, Pauline Oliveros, Gordon Mumma, and David Behrman.   Ashley called it a “video opera,” which confuses me a bit.  It feels more like a PBS special, except created by a brilliant stoner post-everything hippie.   Each composer gets their own two hour episode, divided into an hour long interview and an hour-long performance.   “Music with Roots in the Aether” documents those on the leading edge of “new music,” those deconstructing old musical forms and forging the new language of electronic music and experimental composition.   It’s so so so so good.

 Here’s my favorite clip.  In it, Robert Ashley and Terry Riley milk one of Riley’s goats and then drink the milk.   They then have a very long, pretty awkward conversation.   Then Riley performs “Shri Camel” in his home under construction.   Note his “lag time accumulator” — a system of two tape machines used as a primitive sampler and tape delay (I will write more on Riley soon).

 I also love Alvin Lucier’s performance of “Music for Solo Performer,” in which he amplifies his brain waves to shake some large bass speakers.   It’s amazing and kind of insane.

 All of the videos can be found in high resolution on the PennSound website:

 And also on Ubu:

– Bill Baird

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