Thursday, December 10, 2009

Robert Ashley - Automatic Writing

One of the most important American composers of the 20th and 21st century and some of his most disturbing, powerful works.

"A 1996 CD compiling three early Ashley works from the years 1967-79 -- some of his most experimental and out-there works. A classic electronic music collection and an ideal intro into the somewhat foreboding oeuvre of Robert Ashley's recorded works. The title piece is a 46-minute classic from 1979, which rather famously formed the basis for Nurse With Wound's A Missing Sense. Steven Stapleton's commentary upon this summarizes the intense vibe of this recording: "A Missing Sense was originally conceived as a private tape to accompany my taking of LSD. When in that particular state, Robert Ashley's Automatic Writing was the only music I could actually experience without feeling claustrophobic and paranoid. We played it endlessly; it seemed to become part of the room, perfectly blending with the late night city ambience and the 'breathing' of the building." The piece features the voices of Ashley and Mimi Johnson, with electronics and Polymoog backing, with a switching circuit designed and built by Paul DeMarinis. A fascinating and mysterious work focused on "involuntary speech". The second piece on this CD is "Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon" from 1968. It features the voice of Cynthia Liddell, backed by singers, bells and crackle. Originally issued on the Mainstream label, as an excerpt for a theatre work for amplified voices and tape. The final piece, "She Was a Visitor" is from 1967, originally issued on the infamous electronic compilation Extended Voices (CBS Odyssey), featuring experimental vocals works. Performed by the The Brandeis University Chamber Chorus, directed by Alvin Lucier. " Forced Exposure

El Seto


  1. "Automatic Writing" is, quite simply, one of the most beautiful and haunting pieces of music I've ever heard. There is nothing else like it, and yet in many ways its effects are achieved through its utter simplicity and minimalism. It's melancholy and aching, and there's something gloriously hard-to-grasp in its whispery aura. Listening to this piece is doubtless as close as I'll ever get to a true religious experience.

  2. Indeed Ed, I can only listen to it on certain occasions. Overwhelming.

  3. well almost all the music of that time and specially from this man had this effect, I don't something in the music make you feel nervous without any reason.

  4. Good article on a thin, ghostly spoken-word classic. Have you ever heard Ashley's Yellow Man With Heart With Wings? gYMWH... is less severe than Automatic Writing. Often haunting and easy and surging at the same moment(s)(there are several).