Tuesday night, I visited Issue Project Room for a solo performance by Robert Ashley, one of the leading figures of the downtown NY music scene in the 60's and 70's. He is best known for his "operas": multimedia works that are, "so vast in their vision that they are comparable only to Wagner's Ring cycle or Stockhausen's seven-evening Licht cycle." He is widely credited as the father of music television, primarily for his 1980 made-for-TV opera Perfect Lives.
About Tuesday's performance, Ashley had this to say:
"A LAST FUTILE STAB AT FUN is a 'lecture to be sung' with accompanying sounds. The text was written in 1979 as a lecture for the Walker Art Center and has not been done since or otherwise... It produced a kind of what-are-we-talking-about set of logical conclusions that came from I don't know where. It digressed into other questions of things I was thinking about then. Finally in 2008 I got it into a metered form as a 'lecture to be sung.'"
Ashley read at a small table, his amplified and electronically-altered voice supplemented with samples that sounded like souls trapped in hell. (The point was driven home with the blood-red lighting.) I missed most of the performance, but heard enough odd snippets to get the gist. The audience, about 80 strong, gave Ashley a sustained ovation once he finished.
There is some exciting news concerning the future of Issue Project Room, which has been plagued by lease issues for years. I'll provide details as soon as it's confirmed.