Robert Ashley (1930 Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA–2014 New York City, New York, USA) was an American composer best known for combining electronic music, theatre and storytelling through his original television operas and multidisciplinary projects. With composers Gordon Mumma and Roger Reynolds, Ashley founded ONCE Group, a multifaceted ensemble of musicians, dancers, architects, and visual artists mainly active in Ann Arbor. The group’s activities and the eponymous festivals held annually during the 1960s represented a significant benchmark for intermedia avant-garde experiments, promoting innovative approaches to electronic music and theatre through multimedia performances. In 1966, along with members involved in the ONCE Group, Ashley co-founded the live electronic music group Sonic Art Union, which toured extensively throughout the United States and Europe until 1976. Perfect Lives, a seven-episode television work commissioned by The Kitchen in New York in 1980, is perhaps Ashley’s most comprehensive work, and has been revived by countless artists. Ashley’s body of work fostered the revival of opera within the avant-garde. A luminary across the arts, Ashley received the John Cage Award for Music from the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, New York (2002) and the American Music Center’s Letter of Distinction (2008). He has written music for Trisha Brown and Merce Cunningham dance companies, and has received commissions from Creative Capital, the Berliner Festspiele, the Kanagawa Arts Foundation, the American Composers Orchestra, and Bayerischer Rundfunk.

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