Video Portraits of Composers and their Music, this episode with Alvin Lucier
Produced and directed by Robert Ashley. Philip Makanna, Director and Camera;
Maggi Payne, Audio Recordist; Jerry Pearsall, Video Recordist and Technical Director
also includes: Music For Solo Performer (1965)
Electronic music pioneer Alvin Lucier amplifies his own brain waves.
Nicolas Collins electronics. 1965.
In the early seventies, Robert Ashley produced and directed a 14-hour television opera/documentary about the work and ideas of seven American composers, Music with Roots in the Aether, which premiered at the Festival d'Automne à Paris in 1976. It comprises seven films, each two hours long, most of which have a live performance preceded by an interview in a 'landscape'
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."
— Robert Ashley