Robert Ashley

American composer

Robert Ashley (28 March 19303 March 2014) is a composer, primarily of opera.


  • This fact, the surfacing of structure in an undeliberate action, is too big to take on here, but it was enough to convince me that the structuralists—the advocates of planning music before you hear or care what the plan gives you—were right: do not rely on unplanned music; it comes out as though it were planned, but planned by someone you cross the street to avoid.
    • liner notes to Automatic Writing (1996), referring to both automatic writing and the piece Automatic Writing.
  • It's not what you've been taught - in the conservative sectors - that you have a poverty of materials. You're all healthy, you're all strong enough to make sounds until the end of time. The only problem you have is deciding whether your sound is any good. What I'm encouraging you to do is not to think about that too much, not to reevaluate the sounds, but just to examine them, and see what the structure is. See what's actually there, before you start this process of trying to ask yourself whether Nancy Reagan would like it, or Mrs. Bush. Just take the whole big first chunk, and then break it down. Follow what you know about it to where it goes... The music's there. I'm not trying to be weird, but it's there. I was taught that I didn't have anything, and it was my job to work hard and get something, and that's just not true.
    • from talks at Mills College, 1989. Published with libretto of Perfect Lives, pages 151-2, Burning Books Press
Wikipedia has an article about: