DUST (1999)

Dust Dust
Dust Dust


"Imagine a street corner anywhere in the world, where those who live on the fringes of society gather to talk, to each other and to themselves, about life-changing events, missed opportunities, memory, loss and regret. Five 'street people' recount the memories and experiences of one of their group, a man who has lost his legs in some unnamed war. As part of the experience of losing his legs, he began a conversation with God, under the influence of the morphine he was given to ease his pain. Now he wishes that the conversation, which was interrupted when the morphine wore off, could be continued so that he could get the 'secret word' that would stop all wars and suffering." — Robert Ashley

"As a composer, Mr. Ashley is a superior writer. He has the gift of simple language that springs forward with a wonderful rhythmic grace. The pauses are deftly calculated. Sometimes words bleed into musical tones, but most of the music is in simple pop-chord harmonies moving through basic cadences. Said in a better way, the true music in 'Dust' is in the language and its delivery."
— Bernard Holland, The New York Times

"Is Dust Ashley's greatest opera? It is certainly his most accessible, and is bound to win over fans ... I haven't been so punched in the gut by an opera in 20 years. As an older man's brutally honest work, Dust gives the same impression as the late sonatas and quartets do in Beethoven's output: a new simplicity, in a way, but coming from an emotional realm that seems beyond everyday consciousness. The text's realism is so palpable that autobiography seems the only plausible explanation..."
— Kyle Gann, The Village Voice

"Ashley to ashes, Dust to dust. Mortality and life's 'irreversibilities' are Ashley's themes in a libretto inspired by the free associations of homeless street people. Modeled on the motet form of layered voices (a sort of Middle Ages doo-wop), Dust's set consisted of five vocalists— Ashley, Sam Ashley, Joan La Barbara, Thomas Buckner, and Jacqueline Humbert— arranged behind panes of glass that shifted constantly between clarity and opacity. Television monitors above each of them commented on their words, while a wall-sized screen hovered above this mystical multimedia Stonehenge like a supertitled Rothko panel.
No one sings in Dust, at least not in the old-fashioned sense, although the performances demanded virtuoso moments of pitch and timing. Ashley himself embodies an urbane intimacy reminiscent of Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon improvisations. In their harmonies, speech patterns, constant digressions, and, yes, utter sense of fun, Ashley's operas give the cumulative impression of a single extended work. The epitome of pop-art perfection, it's both ritual and diversion — television of the future."
— Richard Gehr, The Village Voice

Music & Libretto by Robert Ashley
Sound Direction by Robert Ashley
Visual Direction by Yukihiro Yoshihara
Singers: Sam Ashley, Thomas Buckner. Jacqueline Humbert, Joan La Barbara, Robert Ashley
Live mixing and sound processing: Tom Hamilton
Synthesizer: "Blue" Gene Tyranny
Electronic orchestration by Robert Ashley, Tom Hamilton and "Blue" Gene Tyranny
Sound Effects for Friends composed by Tom Hamilton
Technical Coordination/Sound System Engineer: Cas Boumans
Video Projection System: Jack Young
Production Management: David Moodey
Costumes: Jacqueline Humbert

Produced by: Performing Artservices, Inc., Mimi Johnson
Kanagawa Arts Foundation, Yasuyo Kondo

European Representation:
Bénédicte Pesle, Julie George, Damien Valette



Setting up the Dust Production at The Kitchen

Setting up the Dust production in Paris

Dust Music Equipment

Dust Projection Equipment

Dust Set Pieces

Dust Production History

For more information: Performing Artservices, Inc.
Mimi Johnson
260 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013
tel: 212/941-8911
fax: 212/334-5149