Published by New Documents
Edited by Will Holder, Alex Waterman.
American composer Robert Ashley (born 1930) has taken contemporary opera beyond the opera theater and into the television screen. Ashley’s operas draw an elegant cosmology of American consciousness out of storytelling, short phrases, ranting, chanting, profanity and the linguistic textures that make American speech musical. Working with the same four speakers/singers (Joan La Barbara, Sam Ashley, Tom Buckner and Jacqueline Humbert) for 30 years, Ashley has developed a collective, operatic form of storytelling whose production is almost entirely oral. Little exists on the page by way of a fully notated score, leaving the singers to fill in musical nuance and inflection through a process of “character development” that exists more off the page than on. Yes, But Is It Edible? is the culmination of activity and research around Ashley’s notational style that the editors have developed through a series of “rehearsals” and public readings ongoing since 2009.