Robert Ashley
Steve Paxton Quicksand


When he died in 2014, the composer Robert Ashley left behind a vast body of work of which he had been the principal performer. His instrument of choice was the voice, or more precisely, his fluid way of speaking that was between the spoken and sung word. In his posthumous work Quicksand, his voice, reduced to a mere recording, becomes the central element.
The ‘opera-novel’ project first took on the unexpected form of a spy novel Ashley wrote and published in 2011. Then in 2014, as his health deteriorated, he decided to record himself reading the text out loud, handing over production responsibilities to former colleagues and old friends: composer Tom Hamilton for the ever-changing electronic soundscape that was to accompany the voice, choreographer Steve Paxton and lighting designer David Moodey. Music, dance and light are three stand-alone elements in this work: 16 choreographed sequences, 16 lightscapes and 48 musical episodes, all joined in one overarching performance devoid of any clear, underlying plot. The three-hour long work revolves around a voice telling the journey of an opera composer involved in the overthrowing of a Southeast Asian military dictatorship. Though the fiction style lends to some larger-than-life aspects, a number of self-reflective elements become somewhat apparent, as if the composer were having one last look back at his body of work. When one of the characters asks what his operas are about, he replies, “It’s hard to say. It’s like people telling stories.”


You might also attend:
Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain – 8pm, October 3rd
Soirée Nomade dedicated to Robert Ashley (screenings, performances, readings)
With the participation of Reinier van Houdt
Full price €13 (€12 online) / reduced price €9 (€8 online) – bookings at or 01 42 18 56 72

Centre Pompidou – 8:30pm, October 15th
Matmos / Robert Ashley, Perfect Lives – Exceprts: The Park, The Backyard, The Bar
€14 and €18 / Subscription €14
Adpatation by Matmos/Martin Schmidt and Drew Daniel
With Jennifer Kirby (voice), Caroline Marcantoni (voice), Walker Teret (piano), M.C. Schmidt (narration, video, guitar, synthethiser), Drew Daniel (electronics), Britton Powell (doublebass), Max Eilbacher (video)

Matmos, American duo M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel working in experimental electronic music, will perform three acts from Ashley’s Perfect Lives. Known for his ground-breaking operatic forms that were originally meant for television, Ashley’s work is considered a precursor of modern video clips. Matmos has reworked the opera, ecploring into the daily hum-drum lives of Midwest America

Jointly produced by Les Spectacles vivants – Centre Pompidou (Paris), and the Festival d’Automne à Paris