Robert Ashley - Automatic Writing
Robert Ashley’s essential Automatic Writing joins the growing band of Lovely Music offerings to receive recent renewal. Released in 1979, this pivotal album contains three pieces: “Automatic Writing” (1979), “Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon” (1971) and “She Was A Visitor” (1967).
The title piece was created over five summers at Mills College, during which Ashley probed his interest in involuntary speech. Recording unconscious expression and repeated lines of his own mantra to tape, an illegible script grew four distinct characters, who play out an ambiguous scene at close range. Tinkering and teetering tenderly and with a secretive aura, Ashley’s vocalizations join his wife Mimi Johnson’s french translation / reiteration, electronics and softly played organ tones over 46 minutes.
“Purposeful Lady” and “She Was a Visitor” are descriptive works, both excerpts from his 1967 opera, That Morning Thing. The former is an unsettling meditation, a woman falteringly describing a sexual experience with perfunctory chimes and sung expressions pressed between her words. The latter is for a chorus, undulating and growing rumor-like under a repeated phrase to simultaneously discomfiting and tranquilizing effect.