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© 1993 John Fago

Born in Ann Arbor in 1930 and educated at the University of Michigan and the Manhattan School of Music, Robert Ashley studied composition as well as psychoacoustics and cultural speech patterns. He established and directed the ONCE Group and the ONCE Festival, music-theatre organizations that flourished in Ann Arbor during the 1960s presenting and touring most of the decade's major artists. Relocating to California in 1969, Mr. Ashley directed Mills College's Center for Contemporary Music, where he organized a world-renowned public access music and media facility.

Now a full-time composer based in New York, one of Ashley's best known works is Perfect Lives, an opera for television that was produced in cooperation with Britain's Channel Four and broadcast in 1984. Commissioned by New York's performance venue The Kitchen, it has since been seen in Austria, Spain, and the United States. Ashley's work Improvement, a 90-minute oratorio-like piece, premiered in New York in 1991, and has since been featured in festivals in Berlin and Paris.

Music excerpts:

Improvement (Don Leaves Linda)

From The Improvement by Robert Ashley
Thomas Buckner, baritone
Nonesuch 79289-2 (c) & (p) Elektra Entertainment

The Bar (from Perfect Lives)

Lovely Music LCD 4917.3
Robert Ashley, voice
(c) & (p) 1991 Lovely Music Ltd.