For all his downtown urbanity, Ashley was an old Midwestern man who conjured wood-paneled rooms draped in doilies and crowned with plush recliners: The womb of a hypothetical home. When I first heard his music, it reminded me of visiting my grandparents as a kid, falling asleep on the couch while adults talked quietly in the next room. Saying what? The words weren’t clear. An animal only needs to hear the tone of our voice to know what we mean. Finally: Here was a mystery in which I could actually feel safe.
His wisdom was a trap door. Stop paying attention in a seemingly dull moment, and you find yourself falling through a world of infinite speculation. Do you want to see someone make a mountain out of a molehill? In 1977’s Private Parts, Ashley describes a man answering the telephone: “When he says hello, you hear a long whining sound, which is his voice and the hello.” A simple statement about the infinitely complex nature of existence, the argument being that you could only live for a day and still have plenty to write home about.
Fittingly enough for me personally, given that as mentioned he was the one to introduce me to Robert Ashley’s work, Mike Powell has written a beautiful piece about him. The whole thing is wonderful; Mike is a beautiful writer. (via imathers)