This is part 2 of GC’s homage to the inimitable work of the late Robert Ashley. Many thanks to friend and comrade Adam P. for lending these fantastic LPs of lesser heard, as yet unreissued, alternate versions of compositions from his visionary 1980 TV opera; Perfect Lives (Private Parts), currently streamable in-full at UbuWeb.
“Perfect Lives is generally accepted as Robert Ashley’s masterpiece, and is also a wonderful introduction to his work. This seven-part television opera had a long gestation period, and Ashley made a few attempts at recording it. In 1977, Private Parts (The Record) was released. It was a simple recording that consisted of Ashley’s voice, “Blue” Gene Tyranny’s piano, and a tabla player, credited only as “Kris”. This album contained “The Park” and “The Backyard”, which became the first and last sections, respectively, of Perfect Lives. By 1983, Ashley was performing a version of the piece with a group of like-minded musicians including Peter Gordon, David van Tieghem, and Jill Kroesen, many of whom were his former composition students at Mills College in Oakland, CA. This group recorded a complete version of all seven parts of Perfect Lives and released it on cassette (and eventually CD). “Perfect Lives (Private Parts): The Bar”, is a fascinating document of Ashley’s process. It represents a midpoint in the development of this piece. Released in 1980, “The Bar” is the exact center of Perfect Lives – part 4 of 7. It’s title is a combination of the two other versions. It was recorded just as Ashley was beginning to perform with his new group (Gordon, van Tieghem, and Kroesen), and allows us to hear another wonderful perspective on this genius work.”