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Ashley, Robert (Reynolds)

music director research mich

Ashley, Robert (Reynolds), pioneering American composer, performer, director, and writer; b. Ann Arbor, Mich., March 28, 1930. He studied theory at the Univ. of Mich. (B.Mus., 1952) and piano and composition with Riegger at the Manhattan School of Music in N.Y. (M.Mus., 1954); then returned to the Univ. of Mich., for further composition study with Finney, Bassett, and Gerhard (1957–60), where he also took courses in psychoacoustics and cultural speech patterns at its Speech Research Laboratories and was employed as a research assistant (1960–61) in acoustics at its Architectural Research Laboratory. He was active with Milton Cohen’s Space Theater (1957–64), the ONCE Festival and ONCE Group (1958–69), and the Sonic Arts Union (1966–76), touring widely with them in the U.S. and Europe; also served as director of the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills Coll. in Oakland, Calif. (1970–81). As the first opera composer of the post-proscenium age, Ashley is one of the most influential and highly acclaimed artists in the 20 th -century avant-garde music and experimental performance tradition. He has produced several hundred music and music-theater compositions for live performance as well as audio and video recordings and broadcast television series, which have been performed throughout the world. In his compositions from the mid-1970s, often experimental, technologically driven, and collaborative, he has developed a complex, episodic treatment of his materials, marked by striking imagery, textual multiplicity, and a graceful and highly individualized integration of speech and song. Ashley has also provided music for the dance companies of Douglas Dunn (Idea from the Church, 1978), Steve Paxton (The Park and The Backyard, 1978), Trisha Brown (Son of Gone Fishiri, 1983), and Mercé Cunningham (Problems in the Flying Saucer, 1988). He was married first to the artist Mary Ashley, with whom he collaborated; then to Mimi Johnson, director of Performing Artservices in N.Y. Ashley is one of four featured composers (with Cage, Glass, and Anderson) in Peter Greenaway’s video series, Four American Composers . His Perfect Lives was published, in book form, in 1991.

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