PRINT April 2009


Robert Ashley

IN AN INTERVIEW LAST YEAR, composer Robert Ashley recalled a story about his Uncle Willard, who called the police one day to report a UFO in his living room. When the officers arrived, they asked him where the UFO was. He pointed toward a peach pit on a windowsill.

“Willard, that’s not a UFO, that’s just a peach pit,” the Sheriff sighed.

“Well, it may look like a peach pit to you!” Willard replied.

The figure of Uncle Willard, with his divergent take on collectively perceived reality, speaks like one of the characters from Ashley’s operas. We can imagine the sound of his voice coming to us from the hills of Tennessee more than sixty years back. It’s a voice with the timbre of poverty and drinking, a voice that tells stories almost the same way every time, always working out the details again to get it just right—stories whose punch lines can make you laugh one time and cry another. It’s a

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