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Varispeed Collective: Robert Ashley, Perfect Lives

Gelsey Bell singer, songwriter, and scholar; Brian McCorkle vocalist and composer/performer; and Dave Ruder vocalist, clarinetist, guitarist, composer/writer discuss their efforts as part of the Varispeed Collective to mount a live version of Perfect Lives, Robert Ashley’s legendary made-for-television musical mini-serial in seven locations around Jersey City, New Jersey on Saturday, September 19, 2015.

Plus four musical examples from their previous performances of the piece. Here are details:

Perfect Lives
An opera by Robert Ashley
Arranged and performed by Varispeed with Con Vivo Music

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A FREE Day-Long Music Event
The performance will take place in seven 30-minute episodes at seven Jersey City venues throughout one day.

Originally released in the 1980s as episodes of a music-based BBC television show, Perfect Lives is Robert Ashley’s quirky, energetic, and philosophical modern opera, adapted anew by Varispeed and narrated by the band and guest musicians. Its seven episodes weave the intersecting stories of people in the American Midwest, centered around a mysterious crime, an elopement, and the mischief of two itinerant musicians.

Varispeed is a collective of composer-performers that creates site-specific, sometimes-participatory, oftentimes-durational, forevermore-experimental events. Founded by Aliza Simons, Dave Ruder, Paul Pinto, Brian McCorkle, and Gelsey Bell.


Experimental Composers


The object of this series is to invite emerging and established innovators to share their work. These programs are usually a combination of an interview with a far-reaching perspective on the artist's career, some recordings illustrating this history, and something new. Open territory. The unfortunate and unintended messages that come attached to a title like Experimental Composers are many. Still it is one of the few labels to come out of the world of music that has not been co-opted by promoters, corporations, journalists, or lawyers. This one just seems to have anti-market goo on it. Hooray. It's also just bad English (as if to imply that these poor souls are themselves, in their flesh and blood, some kind of experiment and, perhaps, even expendable). And then there is the spectre of defying the wisdom of the great Edgar Varèse who said something like, "I do not write experimental music. My experimenting is done before I make the music. Afterwards it is the listener who must experiment."