Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

11. Robert AshleyAutomatic Writing

Robert Ashley is famous for having made these so-called operas, a lot of them were for TV. He works with the voice in these really great ways. I love this record because you don’t know exactly what’s going on: there’s a lot of mystery. You have to piece together what’s going on within the minutiae of the musical environment. Or you don’t and you just listen and enjoy it. The sounds are very beautiful. Ther’s a distant organ in the background just playing this one chord and you can also hear a bass. You can hear this woman whispering in French but you can barely hear her. Then this male singer appears but there’s some crazy modulation on his voice. So all these crazy elements combine to create this crazy environment that you want to listen to for maybe ten minutes, because it’s not like a song but it’s got the elements of a song: you’ve got a bassline, you’ve got these instruments playing harmonies and you have voices. But you can’t tell what’s going on. It has an atmosphere. The album is called Automatic Writing but the track I’m talking about here, specifically, is called ‘Automatic Writing’. It’s important for me because it reinforced this idea that you could put beauty into music without necessarily using sweet melodies or whatever. I do have that in my music, but I also like the drama that can come from just… voices.

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