A monumental documentary series by Lovely Music’s Robert Ashley featuring Terry Riley, David Behrman, Pauline Oliveros, Philip Glass, Alvin Lucier and others.
In 1975 Robert Ashley embarked on an ambitious fourteen-hour documentary series investigating, interviewing, and showcasing performances of his contemporaries. Designed as a sort of tele-opera, each of the lengthy episodes highlighted and experimentally constructed profiles of his Lovely Music roster and affiliates. David Behrman, Pauline Oliveros, Terry Riley, Alvin Lucier and Gordon Mumma all get a similar treatment, with the finale of the episodes reserved for Ashley himself. At times the series can be indulgent, but if you have the time and patience the grandiose experiment succeeds in narratively presenting a thorough study of his generation of a like-minded school of post-Cage composers.
Here’s how Ashley describes this monumental work:
“Music with Roots in the Aether is a music-theater piece in color video. It is the final version of an idea that I had thought about and worked on for a few years: to make a very large collaborative piece with other composers whose music I like. The collaborative aspect of Music with Roots in the Aether is in the theater of the interviews, at least primarily, and I am indebted to all of the composers involved for their generosity in allowing me to portray them in this manner.
The piece turns out to be, in addition, a large-scale documentation of an important stylistic that came into American concert music in about 1960. These composers of the “post-serial” / “post-Cage” movement have all made international reputations for the originality of their work and for their contributions to this area of musical compositions.
The style of the video presentation comes from the need I felt to find a new way to show music being performed. The idea of the visual style of Music with Roots in the Aether is plain: to watch as closely as possible the action of the performers and to not “cut” the seen material in any way–that is, to not editorialize on the time domain of the music through arbitrary space-time substitutions.
The visual style for showing the music being made became the “theater” (the stage) for the interviews, and the portraits of the composers were designed to happen in that style.”
The result is a rewarding and insightful watch, especially for those who admire these legendary artists. We’ve embedded “Landscape with Terry Riley” below but you can watch all the episodes in full at: https://ubu.com/film/aether.html